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Parties await judge's response in sorority lawsuit targeting transgender membership

A black bison on a transgender flag
Jeff Victor
Laramie Reporter

In the federal lawsuit seeking to ban transgender individuals from Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority chapters, the national organization has accused the plaintiffs of being "plainly and profoundly unserious" about raising or answering real legal questions who are instead aiming to "cloak their view of the world in the authority of this Court."

"The entire endeavor amounts to little more than another plea for this Court to build them the social circle they want so that they can avoid the fact that their fellow sorority sisters voted to admit a transgender woman," alleged the sorority's latest filing.

Earlier this year, six students at the University of Wyoming sued their own sorority, seeking to remove a transgender member from their chapter. They alleged the national sorority had violated its own stated mission of providing an "all-female" space by admitting a transgender student, Artemis Langford, who the plaintiffs do not see as a real woman.

In their original complaint, subsequent filings and during national media appearances, the plaintiffs have consistently referred to Langford with he/him pronouns, and insist that she is a man pretending to be a woman.

The national organization has asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the sorority can accept who it pleases, and that it should not be forced to adopt the "exclusionary" beliefs that the plaintiffs hold about trans women.

"This entire case is premised on the idea that the term 'women' only has one definition," the sorority alleged in a recent filing. "As Defendants have explained, it does not. Courts, dictionaries, and society have not adopted a unified definition of the term, let alone the one Plaintiffs would prefer. Kappa and the other sororities that have uniformly adopted the same view are not out of step with any kind of universal definition in including transgender women in their conception of who is a woman."

In a court filing from earlier this month, the plaintiffs responded and reiterated their allegation that the sorority has not given them the all-female fraternity experience they were promised.

"Langford's access to and unfettered presences in the sorority house violates the housing contract that Plaintiffs signed and the Plaintiffs suffer extensive damage as a result, including PTSD, anxiety, and emotional damages in an exact amount to be proven at the time of trial," the plaintiffs argued. "Additionally, many recruits and members have fled the house or sorority for this reason. One member even moved a state away."

In a response, the sorority said the plaintiffs have failed to identify any rule that forbids transgender women from joining. The sorority also invited the plaintiffs to renounce their membership and leave the chapter. In the conclusion to its latest filing, the sorority highlights statements from its own members — either current or graduated members of the UW chapter — who support Langford's admission.

The member statements came in response to a petition-signing effort among the sorority community aimed at supporting the plaintiffs.

"If a chapter has elected to invite a trans woman for membership, then they must believe that she embodies all the qualities we look for in our new members — except for what might be in her pants, which you seem to care a great deal about," one member responded. "I would argue that you and the other signers of this petition are doing far more to harm the future of Kappa than active members who believe in principles of diversity and inclusion."

The plaintiffs are suing not just the university but Langford herself. While much of the original lawsuit focused on allegations about Langford's behavior, it did not actually seek any relief or damages from Langford personally. So Langford is asking the court to dismiss her from the suit.

Langford alleged that the lawsuit includes irrelevant allegations and simply exists to slander her. She points to the lawsuit's preoccupation with her size and the mockery she has received in the national press. The plaintiffs say all of the details they included are important to their case.

"It is unclear why—when a large man pushes his way into an all-female space—the women who object are the bullies," the plaintiffs argued. "Plaintiffs have denied dozens of national and international press requests, but they want their voices heard by this Court to prevent their victimization from occurring to other women who may be afraid to stand up for themselves."

But as Langford highlighted in an earlier motion, there has been significant fallout from this lawsuit, including "nationwide ridicule (of Langford) that is encouraged and participated in by Plaintiffs and their counsel."

The motion gave a few examples of the "nationwide ridicule" Langford has experienced, mostly stemming from the plaintiffs' appearances on conservative talk shows. These include being called a "pervert" by Megyn Kelly, being called a "perverted, sexually-deviant male" by Caitlyn Jenner, and having her GPA mocked by Laura Ingram. Langford claimed threatening messages have followed in the wake of these appearances.

Like the sorority, Langford accused the plaintiffs of filing the lawsuit not to make a legal point, but to "gain recognition and to fundraise." She pointed to the national media appearances, as well as a crowdfunding page, where these appearances are posted and through which they have already raised more than $50,000.

And in her latest filing, Langford demonstrated how one of the original allegations of creepy behavior levied against her was false. Attached to this latest filing are photos and screenshots showing conversations via text and Snapchat.

One of the original allegations included in the initial lawsuit involved Langford watching and becoming aroused as one of the plaintiffs, Megan Kosar, turned her back to change her shirt.

Kosar was informed about this incident by another sorority member, but in later text and Snapchat conversations, that other member, now concerned she might be asked to take the stand in a trial, came clean, saying the incident she reported did not in fact happen.

According to these attachments, Kosar responded to the news that her privacy had not been violated with, "Damn that sucks," adding that she still felt Langford was "creepy in other ways at least."

Judge Kelly H. Rankin must now decide what to do regarding the motions to dismiss and the subsequent filings. All parties await the court’s response.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.

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