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Appeals court hears oral arguments in a case involving trans UW sorority sister

A sorority house on UW's sorority row.
Chris Clements
/
Wyoming Public Media
Kappa Kappa Gamma on the University of Wyoming's campus in Laramie on May 14, 2024.

Six University of Wyoming sorority sisters are appealing a federal judge's ruling from August that a transgender student could join their sorority.

Oral arguments for the case were held May 14 in Denver before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The plaintiffs argue that trans women aren’t women, and that Kappa Kappa Gamma disregarded its own rules when it used an inclusive definition of the word “woman” and admitted Artemis Langford in the fall of 2022.

Sara Burlingame is the director of the advocacy group Wyoming Equality, which is not part of the lawsuit. She said she’s known Langford for years.

“She happens to be a Wyoming kiddo who I think we're all charged with protecting and ensuring that she has the same exact rights as anybody else, not more or less,” said Burlingame.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson dismissed the original lawsuit against Langford, saying private organizations are allowed to decide their own membership. He also declined to define the word “woman.”

Burlingame said the lawsuit and the national media attention it’s generated has taken a toll on Langford.

“Academically, she really struggled when she was getting threats, when people were driving up from Colorado to canvas the university [and] leave insulting messages,” she said.

Activist groups supporting the sorority sisters who first brought the case against Langford, their fellow sister, held a press conference at the court before oral arguments.

Judges did not immediately rule on the appeal.

This reporting was made possible by a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, supporting state government coverage in the state. Wyoming Public Media and Jackson Hole Community Radio are partnering to cover state issues both on air and online.

Chris Clements is a state government reporter and digital media specialist for Wyoming Public Media based in Laramie. He came to WPM from KSJD Radio in Cortez, Colorado, where he reported on Indigenous affairs, drought, and local politics in the Four Corners region. Before that, he graduated with a degree in English (Creative Writing) from Arizona State University. Chris's news stories have been featured on KUNC, NPR newscasts, and National Native News, among others.
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