Texas A&M’s Walter Wendler sued for canceling drag show

Texas A&M President Walter Wendler (Photo via university); Drag artist Vidalia Anne Gentry speaks at an unrelated Human Rights Campaign press conference. (John Amis/AP Images for HRC)

The president of West Texas A&M University faces a federal lawsuit calling his cancellation of a student group’s drag show to benefit LGBTQ+ suicide prevention “textbook viewpoint discrimination” that violates the First Amendment.

Student group Spectrum WT, which scheduled a show titled “A Fool’s Drag Race” for March 31, seeks an injunction forcing the university to allow the event on campus.

In their 45-page federal lawsuit, the group notes that the university’s president Walter Wendler “confessed he is censoring” the show for personal reasons and “unabashedly admitted that doing so violates the Constitution.”

“A harmless drag show? Not possible,” Wendler remarked. “I will not appear to condone the decline of any group at the expense of impertinent gestures towards another group for any reason, even when the law of the land appears to require it.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), the First Amendment group taking up the student’s cause, clarified the law in question.

“That ‘law of the land’ is the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the lawsuit states. “And our Constitution prohibits public officials, including public university presidents, from silencing Americans because a public official dislikes certain points of view.”

FIRE’s attorney Adam Steinbaugh emphasized that the Constitution protected a wide variety of student speech.

“College presidents can’t silence students simply because they disagree with their expression,” Steinbaugh said. “The First Amendment protects student speech, whether it’s gathering on campus to study the Bible, hosting an acid-tongued political speaker, or putting on a charity drag show.”

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