A U.S. district judge has ruled that West Texas A&M University did not violate students’ constitutional right to free speech when the institution’s president canceled a drag show earlier this year, according to the Associated Press.
The ruling by Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk last Thursday is among numerous high-profile legal battles over drag shows across the United States. Federal courts have blocked drag show bans in Florida, Montana and Tennessee from being implemented, as has a separate federal judge in Texas, according to the AP.
Kacsmaryk wrote in his decision that drag shows are “sexualized content” and therefore can be more regulated than other forms of speech.
“The First Amendment does not prevent school officials from restricting ‘vulgar and lewd’ conduct that would ‘undermine the school’s basic educational mission’—particularly in settings where children are physically present,” Kacsmaryk wrote, the news outlet reported.
Walter Wendrell, president of West Texas A&M, canceled the planned drag show last March and explained in an email to the campus that he was doing so because such shows were demeaning to women and were “derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent.” He added, “No one should claim a right to contribute to women’s suffering via a slapstick sideshow that erodes the worth of women.”
The drag show was planned as a fundraiser for the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization that provides information and support to LGBTQ+ youth.
Spectrum WT, a group for LGBTQ+ students and allies that filed the lawsuit against the university, was represented by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a free speech organization, which said it would appeal the ruling.