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Sorority sisters appeal judge’s ruling allowing man to join Kappa Kappa Gamma

U. Wyoming case says bylaws only allow biological women

Several members of the University of Wyoming Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter have appealed a federal court decision dismissing their lawsuit challenging the admission of a biological male into their sorority.

The lawsuit, first filed in March, involves the acceptance of Artemis Langford, a man who identifies as a woman, as a member of the all-female sorority in 2022. It alleges Kappa Kappa Gamma violated its own bylaws, which say members must be women.

“In order for our society and the law to function, words have meaning,” May Mailman, a lawyer with the Independent Women’s Law Center, told The College Fix this month.

Mailman, who is representing several members in the case, said: “Kappa could have changed from a sorority to a co-ed living space, but it didn’t. It said members shall be ‘women.’ We must accept that words have meaning, because it’s true.”

The lawsuit hinges on the question of whether the court can enforce a certain definition of the word “woman.” Last year, a U.S. District Court dismissed the case, ruling that the sorority had a right to define “woman” however it pleases. The court also expressed “reluctance to interfere” with a private organization’s “internal affairs,” according to the sorority members’ appeal.

Their appeal asks the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the lower decision and interpret “woman” to mean “a biological female.” The plaintiffs also want damages from the national sorority and they want Langford to be removed.

The members’ appeal describes the original meaning of the word “woman,” and argues that since the female membership qualification was added to the bylaws in 1882, it has always meant a biological female.

However, Kappa Kappa Gamma told The Fix in a statement this week that the court ruled correctly in dismissing the members’ case and affirming the sorority’s “right to choose its members.”

“Despite that ruling, the plaintiffs continue to misuse the legal system to raise funds and try to interfere with a private organization’s right to interpret its own bylaws,” the sorority said.

But Mailman, when asked why a court should enforce the common meaning of “woman,” gave The Fix this example: “Take this out of the context of men and women. Say you hire someone to paint your house white, and the painter paints it purple. Everyone would acknowledge the painter breached the contract, and it would be no defense to say, ‘Well the can said white,’ or ‘I believe the paint is white.’”

MORE: U. Wyoming sorority sisters file lawsuit to remove male member

Among the harms the members allege were caused by Langford’s admission is that many areas of the sorority house, which are supposed to be a single-sex haven, were accessed by a man.

This was particularly troubling for many of the women, including a sexual assault survivor, according to their complaint. The bathrooms did not have locks and there was no private area to get out of one’s clothes before showering, the complaint states.

Along with the lawsuit, more than 450 Kappa alumni also submitted a brief to the 10th Circuit last month with personal stories, studies, and other evidence of the harms that they believe would be caused by allowing a biological male to join their women-only sorority.

Mailman told The Fix some sorority members felt that their very existence as females was minimized, too.

“To Kappa, being a woman is simply about how you dress and the pronouns you choose. Women know that we are more,” she said.

The lawsuit further alleges that the sorority’s Wyoming leadership chapter violated the bylaws in several other respects pertaining to the admission of Langford.

Sorority bylaws require secret ballot votes for new members, but the leaders held a vote with a Google poll that was not anonymous in Langford’s case, according to their lawsuit.

Members felt coerced into voting for Langford after being told that voting against him could be evidence of “bigotry,” which is “a basis for suspension or expulsion from the Sorority,” the lawsuit alleges.

Asked why the admission of transgender individuals seems to only be a problem in sororities and not fraternities, Mailman told The Fix that she does not think men would put up with it.

“If they did, sororities would not have been necessary as women would have joined frats 150 years ago to reap Greek life benefits,” Mailman said. “This is happening to women because women are nicer. We put others’ interests above our own. And it has harmed us. We need to stop.

“Women can be kind, understanding, inclusive, and welcoming without giving up our basic rights, like the right to live and interact in a single-sex environment,” she said.

MORE: Transgender student rejected from every sorority at U. Alabama

IMAGE: Houlihan Narratives/Facebook

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Jack Shields is a student at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, and a graduate of Texas A&M University. He is also an editor and columnist at Lone Conservative.