Judge Denies University of Wyoming Sorority Women, Transgender Member Anonymity In Lawsuit

The seven women suing Kappa Kappa Gamma for inducting a transgender woman into its Wyoming chapter have until April 20 to reveal their true names in open court, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

Clair McFarland

April 07, 20234 min read

University of Wyoming Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority photo
University of Wyoming Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority photo (Kappa Kappa Gamma Facebook)

UPDATE, April 8, 2023: Citing Violence Against Swimmer Riley Gaines, University Of Wyoming Sorority Members Ask Judge To Reconsider Anonymity

The seven women suing their sorority for inducting a transgender woman into its Wyoming chapter have until April 20 to reveal their true names in open court, a federal judge ruled Thursday.  

"Lawsuits are public events," wrote U.S. District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson in the order. "And the public, especially here, has an important interest in access to legal proceedings. Plaintiffs may not levy serious accusations without standing behind them."  

The women in a March 27 filing in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming asked Johnson to allow them and Artemis Langford, the transgender sorority member they are suing along with the sorority, to proceed in the case under pseudonyms.  

Their lawsuit alleges that the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority betrayed its duty to them and to its own governing documents by inducting Langford, and that the court should void Langford's membership. It also accuses Langford of numerous instances of misconduct, including ogling the women in the sorority house, sometimes with a visible erection.  

Social Media Maelstrom 

Penned by plaintiffs' attorneys Cassie Kraven and John Knepper, the request called Langford by the pseudonym "Terry Smith" and referred to all the women as "Jane Doe." It said the parties suffer a risk of harm for waging this legal battle in the transgender-rights arena, and have already faced threats, harassment and safety concerns, and a "social media maelstrom."  

"This case presents, for what appears to be the first time, the question whether the word 'woman' includes a man who 'identifies as a woman' as a matter of law," read the plaintiff's request for pseudonymity. "The actual names of the individuals involved is likely the least relevant fact before this Court." 

Anonymity Shield 

Johnson countered, saying the public has a right to follow the suit - including the names.  

"Our system of dispute resolution does not allow Plaintiffs to cower behind an anonymity shield, especially one that is so rarely bestowed in this District or Circuit," said Johnson in his order.  

Judges do allow party pseudonymity in cases involving highly sensitive or personal matters or a real danger of physical harm, Johnson added.  

But the women didn't prove that there is a tangible threat of danger, he said, nor did they reach the threshold for highly sensitive matters.  

Plaintiffs had argued that the suit is sensitive and personal because it involves their intimate living space.  

Johnson acknowledged that courts have allowed pseudonyms in cases involving children or highly sensitive matters, such as sexual harassment, but he noted that this suit's allegations, rather, are of breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract. 

"Plaintiffs likely respond that transsexuality warrants inclusion" as a sensitive matter, said Johnson, adding that he'd agree with that claim if Langford had waged the same argument.  

Langford has not submitted a public filing to the court.  

Another factor behind Johnson's decision is that the women are seeking monetary damages from the sorority, he said, adding that people seeking monetary damages should expect publicity generally. 

Protesting Church Elder 

The pseudonymity request cited the actions of Todd Schmidt, a church elder who approached the sorority house to oppose Langford's induction last year and who displayed a sign in a public forum at the University of Wyoming proclaiming "God created male and female, and Artemis Langford is a male."  

University leaders asked Schmidt to cover Langford's name on the sign. They later revoked his tabling, or presentation privileges for a year.  

"He appears to have believed that he could convince these young women he had never met, aged 18-21, of the correctness of his position in person," said the pseudonymity request, adding that Schmidt's actions prompted unwanted media attention. 

Threats toward both the women and Langford followed, the filing said.  

Johnson said the plaintiffs shouldn't see Schmidt's actions as a threat in themselves.  

"Despite the undoubtedly frightening presence of an uninvited visitor to one's home, it seems to this Court that the protestor, in fact, supported Plaintiffs' views on transgender rights," said Johnson.  

"Of-age Plaintiffs bring any social media backlash, or celebrity, on themselves," he added.  

Langford chose to go on the record with the University of Wyoming's student newspaper, the Branding Iron, last autumn, in a story that celebrated Langford as the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority's first transgender inductee. The transgender woman also has become a well-known figure as the Wyoming Democratic Party's legislative intern. 

Clair McFarland can be reached at: Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

Share this article



Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter