Sorority says rules allow transgender woman at Wyoming chapter

Members of Kappa Kappa Gamma at the University of Wyoming sued in March, saying the sorority violated its own rules by admitting a transgender woman.

Two people walk on the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie on June 14, 2016.Shannon Broderick / Laramie Daily Boomerang via AP file
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Sorority rules allow a transgender woman to belong to its University of Wyoming chapter, and a court can’t interfere with that, a sorority being sued over the matter said in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Seven members of Kappa Kappa Gamma at Wyoming’s only four-year state university sued in March, saying the sorority violated its own rules by admitting Artemis Langford last year. Six of the women refiled the lawsuit in May after a judge twice barred them from suing anonymously.

The Kappa Kappa Gamma motion to dismiss, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne, is the sorority’s first substantive response to the lawsuit, other than a March statement by its executive director, Kari Kittrell Poole, that the complaint contains “numerous false allegations.”

“The central issue in this case is simple: do the plaintiffs have a legal right to be in a sorority that excludes transgender women? They do not,” the motion to dismiss reads.

The policy of Kappa Kappa Gamma since 2015 has been to allow the sorority’s more than 145 chapters to accept transgender women. The policy mirrors those of the 25 other sororities in the National Panhellenic Conference, the umbrella organization for sororities in the U.S. and Canada, according to the Kappa Kappa Gamma filing.

The sorority sisters opposed to Langford’s induction could presumably change the policy if most sorority members shared their view, or they could resign if “a position of inclusion is too offensive to their personal values,” the sorority’s motion to dismiss says.

“What they cannot do is have this court define their membership for them,” the motion asserts, adding that “private organizations have a right to interpret their own governing documents.”

Even if they didn’t, the motion to dismiss says, the lawsuit fails to show how the sorority violated or unreasonably interpreted Kappa Kappa Gamma bylaws.

The sorority sisters’ lawsuit asks U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson to declare Langford’s sorority membership void and to award unspecified damages.

The lawsuit claims Langford’s presence in the Kappa Kappa Gamma house made some sorority members uncomfortable. Langford would sit on a couch for hours while “staring at them without talking,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also names the national Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority council president, Mary Pat Rooney, and Langford as defendants. The court lacks jurisdiction over Rooney, who lives in Illinois and hasn’t been involved in Langford’s admission, according to the sorority’s motion to dismiss.

The lawsuit fails to state any claim of wrongdoing by Langford and seeks no relief from her, an attorney for Langford wrote in a separate filing Tuesday in support of the sorority’s motion to dismiss the case.

Instead, the women suing “fling dehumanizing mud” throughout the lawsuit “to bully Ms. Langford on the national stage,” Langford’s filing says.

“This, alone, merits dismissal,” the Langford document adds.

One of the seven Kappa Kappa Gamma members at the University of Wyoming who sued dropped out of the case when Johnson ruled they couldn’t proceed anonymously. The six remaining plaintiffs are Jaylyn Westenbroek, Hannah Holtmeier, Allison Coghan, Grace Choate, Madeline Ramar and Megan Kosar.