“Woman” in Question for Wyoming Sorority Sisters’ Case
“The Court will not define "woman" today.”
In a withering opinion, Wyoming U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson last week dismissed the case University of Wyoming sorority sisters brought against Kappa Kappa Gamma.
“A "woman", say Plaintiffs, is not a transgender woman. Unadorned, this case condenses to this: Who decides whether Langford is a Kappa Kappa Gamma sister? Though given the opportunity to vote this past fall, not the six Plaintiffs. Not KKG's Fraternity Council. Not even this Federal Court. The University of Wyoming chapter voted to admit - and, more broadly, a sorority of hundreds of thousands approved - Langford. With its inquiry beginning and ending there, the Court will not define "woman" today.”
Johnson ultimately opined that KKG didn’t define “woman” specifically, so neither would the Court. Johnson cited several instances where KKG added inclusive language in member guides and position statements.
“In 2018, KKG published a Guide for Supporting our LGBTQIA+ Members ("2018 Guide"). The 2018 Guide states: Kappa Kappa Gamma is a single-gender organization comprised of women and individuals who identify as women whose governing documents do not discriminate in membership selection except by requiring good scholarship and ethical character.”
The sorority sisters argued that Langford was a sexual predator, and her presence in the House made them uncomfortable. Johnson noted that the sorority sisters were the individuals who willingly voted Langford into KKG. According to KKG’s 2021 “Position Statement,” "[ e ach chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma has the final choice of its own members."
Johnson said as further stated in a FAQ section in 2022, KKG states:
“The FAQs state: We also look to NPC [National Panhellenic Conference ("NPC")] policy as an NPC member organization. The NPC Recruitment Eligibility (2020) policy states: 'For the purpose of participation in Panhellenic recruitment, woman is defined as an individual who consistently lives and self-identifies as a woman. Each women's-only NPC member organization determines its own membership selection policies and procedures.'
In the same FAQ section from 2022, KKG’s position was explicitly inclusive:
“Why are we including gender-neutral pronouns in the revised documents? This change is coming from a Convention resolution that formed Kappa's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Kappa Kappa Gamma was founded 150 years ago on the principles of integrity, respect and regard for others. Kappa has reflected on the path forward, and we are beginning with actions that speak to our belief that all members are valued. This is one of those action steps. We want to be as inclusive of all members as we can be.”
The sorority sisters claimed that (1) KKG organization committed wrongdoing; (2) there was a breach of contract between KKG and the local KKG Building; (3) there was tortious interference with a contract against KKG; and (4) a direct cause of action against KKG.
They requested three judgments from the court (1) naming Langford ineligible for membership and voting; (2) Defendants' violation of their obligations to KKG by admitting Langford; and (3) Defendants' violation of Plaintiffs' housing contracts.
The sorority sisters wanted the Court to stop the defendants from encouraging transgender women to join KKG, and they sought damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
In the dismissal, Johnson stated, “This Judge may not invade Kappa Kappa Gamma's freedom of expressive association and inject the circumscribed definition Plaintiffs urge.”