U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, quickly becoming one of the most well-known Donald Trump appointees, cited an anti-LGBTQ group in a new ruling concluding that drag shows are too “sexualized” for children and likely not entitled to First Amendment protection.
Kacsmaryk came under national scrutiny when he ruled in April to revoke the Food and Drug Administration’s 20-plus-year-old approval of the abortion drug mifepristone. That decision was narrowed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and is now on its way to the Supreme Court.
In a Thursday decision centered on the president of West Texas A&M University banning a family-friendly drag show on campus, Kacsmaryk cited the group Gays Against Groomers, which the Anti-Defamation League has labeled an anti-LGBTQ extremist group. It works to fight the “sexualization and indoctrination of children,” a long-time homophobic attack used to sow distrust in LGBTQ+ people and encourage legislation and litigation in the same vein.
“It is unclear how drag shows unmistakably communicate advocacy for LGBT+ rights,” Kacsmaryk wrote, going on to cite from the group’s about page: “The overwhelming majority of gay people .. . directly oppose the sexualization and indoctrination of children. This includes drag queen story hours [and] drag shows involving children.”
Kacsmaryk granted most of university President Walter Wendler’s motion to dismiss, and rejected the request for injunctive relief from an LGBTQ+ advocacy student group on campus.
Wendler, in a letter nixing the planned drag show, compared the performance to “blackface” minstrelsy.
“As a university president, I would not support ‘blackface’ performances on our campus, even if told the performance is a form of free speech or intended as humor,” Wendler wrote. “It is wrong. I do not support any show, performance or artistic expression which denigrates others — in this case, women — for any reason.”
Kacsmaryk takes the charge even further, permeating the filing with innuendo about drag shows as aggressively sexual and wholly inappropriate for children (the group had marketed the show as PG-13, causing Kacsmaryk feigned bafflement as he wrote that it was a standard “undefined” by the plaintiffs but “presumably” based on the movie ratings).
“Newer cases retained older rules relevant to protests, forums, time, place, and manner — plus an important outer limit on ‘expressive conduct,’ especially sexualized ‘expressive conduct’: ‘When children are involved, the calculation changes,’” Kacmsaryk wrote. “Here, Plaintiffs expressly contemplate and even advertise the involvement of children.”
Kacsmaryk’s ruling, as is often the case, puts him out of step with a tranche of court rulings protecting similar shows that have come on the heels of right-wing politicians’ resurgent obsession with policing drag performances and gender-affirming care.
In most of those rulings, the judges found the drag bans to have violated the First Amendment.
Read Kacsmaryk’s ruling here: