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FIRE, student group sue Wendler over drag show cancellation

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West Texas A&M University President Walter Wendler FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression) student group Spectrum WT and two of the group’s student leaders have filed suit against West Texas A&M University President Walter Wendler after Wendler announced earlier this week he was cancelling a student-organized drag show that would have benefitted The Trevor Project.

Wendler issued a letter declaring there is “no such thing” as a “harmless drag show,” comparing drag to blackface and claiming drag “denigrates” women.

Drag shows, he claimed, “stereotype womern in cartoon-like extremes for the amusement of others and discriminate against womanhood.” In a press release announcing the lawsuit, FIRE said Wendler had “unapologetically vowed to prevent the event from happening, ‘even when the law of the land appears to require it.’” Noting that “The First Amendment is not optional for public university presidents,” the FIRE press release continues, “Today, the students Wendler silenced are making sure he’ll answer in court.” Spectrum WT President Bear Bright, quoted in the press release, said, “President Wendler has made it clear to us that he knows what his legal obligations are, but he chose to ignore them, and we are thankful to FIRE for taking up our case to protect our First Amendment rights.

Hopefully, this lawsuit will not just help us, the LGBTQ+ students here at WTAMU, protect our rights but will also help protect students’ rights across the U.S.” FIRE attorney Adam Steinbaugh added, “College presidents can’t silence students simply because they disagree with their expression.

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