Update: Monday, Sept. 25
AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The West Texas A&M University student group Spectrum WT was denied their amended motion for a preliminary injunction while WT President Walter Wendler’s motion to dismiss was granted, according to “Memorandum Opinion and Order” documents filed in the US District Court Northern District of Texas Amarillo Division on Sept. 21.
As previously reported on MyHighPlains.com, Spectrum WT and two of its student leaders filed a lawsuit in March after Wendler canceled a planned on-campus drag show.
Update 9:25 a.m. Wednesday, May 10
AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — According to documents filed in Amarillo Federal Court Tuesday, Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk denied the plaintiffs’ initial motions for a temporary restraining order and injunction in this case. Kacsmaryk deemed these particular motions as “moot” after the plantiffs’ filed an amended motion for a preliminary injunction, which has not yet been ruled on.
AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The defendants in the West Texas A&M University drag show-related lawsuit have responded to the allegations brought forward by the plaintiffs, according to documents recently filed in Amarillo Federal Court.
West Texas A&M President Walter Wendler, along with Christopher Thomas, the vice president for student affairs at the university, Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp and the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents, have filed respective motions to dismiss the overall lawsuit as well as responded to the plaintiffs’ amended motion for a preliminary injunction in the case. These documents were filed Friday in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas Amarillo Division.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the student group Spectrum WT and two of its student leaders filed a lawsuit in Amarillo Federal Court in March. This comes after Wendler canceled a planned on-campus drag fundraiser, citing his belief that drag shows exaggerate and stereotype women in “cartoon-like extremes.”
The aim of the lawsuit was to stop WT and system officials from prohibiting future similar events and for the court to issue a declaratory judgment that the cancellation violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, according to previous reports. Both the complaint and the motion for preliminary injunction have since been amended after the drag show was hosted off campus in late March.
Walter Wendler Documents
According to Wendler’s motion to dismiss the case, Wendler’s lawyers make the claim that there is no “clearly-established authority that the First Amendment gives students a right to host on-campus drag shows.” The documents argue that drag shows are not “inherently expressive,” citing case law surrounding the intention of a person or group to convey a message and the likelihood for a community member to understand that message.
The documents also say that Wendler has qualified immunity, which “guards officials from civil liability ‘so long as their conduct ‘does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
While the plaintiffs claim that drag shows have become “a mainstream form of performance art and a commentary on identity,” linking the shows with “advocacy in favor of LGBTQ+ rights…,” Wendler’s lawyers stressed that the proposed drag show was “expressive only to the extent that Plaintiffs explain how it is supposedly expressive.”
The team argued that performances cannot be turned into speech by talking about “unexpressed messages” the plaintiffs intend to convey.
“It is simply untrue that – as a matter of law – all drag shows inherently express points of view… For instance, many drag shows are pure entertainment. An observer watching a drag show has no way of knowing whether the performers are expressing anything unless the performance is accompanied by an explanation of the alleged message. But that means that drag shows are not inherently expressive, and are not protected by the First Amendment.”
Within the argument, Wendler’s team goes on to disseminate various kinds of drag shows, from non-sexual drag shows to “lewd, sexual drag shows.” The documents stress that colleges are allowed to prohibit lewd speech and conduct without violating the First Amendment, something that Wendler reportedly assessed in making his decision surrounding the drag show.
Wendler’s team also responded to the plaintiffs’ amended motion for a preliminary injunction in the case. According to Amarillo Federal Court documents, the amended motion, filed on April 20, asked the court to allow drag events to be hosted on campus in what they believe is a part of their First Amendment Rights.
“Plaintiffs are simply wrong in their assertion that there is an absolute First Amendment right to conduct a ‘drag show’ in campus facilities of a public university, no matter how lewd and devoid of expressive content it may be,” the response reads. “But their Motion for a Preliminary Injunction must be denied for more fundamental reasons as well. Plaintiffs have fallen far short of the required showing that they are imminently threatened with irreparable harm from possible future actions of Defendant Wendler or the other Defendants in this case.”
Calling a preliminary injunction an “extraordinary legal remedy,” Wendler’s team stressed in the documents that a preliminary injunction decision is premature and “not ripe at this time.” If passed, Wendler’s team said it would “short-circuit the administrative processes of state universities… regarding potential future grants or denials of permission to use campus facilities….” in the future.
Mirroring the language from the motion to dismiss, Wendler’s team said they ultimately wish for the court to deny the preliminary injunction because of the lack of proof that drag shows are expressive conduct. Officials stressed there is no university policy prohibiting future drag shows, but any future performance that is “lewd” would be prohibited by the defendants based on university policy.
“Plaintiffs do not have a constitutional right to put on a lewd drag show on campus,” the documents read. “No authority says they do. Defendants were within their rights to assume that the requested drag show might be lewd. There is absolutely no authority – and Plaintiffs cite none- establishing the constitutional right to hold a drag show on a public university campus, lewd or otherwise.”
According to the additional motion to dismiss from the other defendants in the case, including Sharp and the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents, the arguments mirrored much of what Wendler’s team presented, stating that the plaintiffs’ claims lack standing, the claims are not ripe and that the causes of action “are barred by sovereign immunity.”
Officials went on to say that since Wendler’s decision, they claimed that the student organization has submitted multiple requests for room reservations and to host events, “none of which have been denied.”
The documents go on to say that any injury from Wendler’s statement is “traceable only to President Wendler” and not the System as a whole. A testimony from Billy Hamilton, the deputy chancellor and chief financial officer for The Texas A&M University System, states that the Board of Regents has not hosted a meeting since Wendler’s letter, with the next one being scheduled for mid-May.
“Plaintiffs’ contention that they have a ‘concrete threat’ against hosting events on campus is not made on any statement or decision made by the A&M System Defendants…,” the documents read.
As of Monday afternoon, no other documents have been filed in Amarillo Federal Court in relation to this case.
This is a developing story. MyHighPlains.com will update this article as new information becomes available.
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