After a federal judge on Thursday ordered them to reveal their true names, seven women suing their sorority for inducting a transgender member into its Wyoming chapter are renewing their plea for anonymity – in light of growing violence and controversy.
The landscape around transgender-related issues grows more violent each day, the women said in their renewed request to proceed anonymously, which they filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming.
The seven female members of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority on March 27 sued the sorority and its transgender inductee Artemis Langford. Their lawsuit complaint said that the sorority violated its duty to them and to its own governing documents by inducting a male who identifies as a woman.
It also alleges that Langford ogled the women in the sorority house, sometimes with a visible erection.
Getting Worse Every Day
Judge Alan B. Johnson on Thursday denied the seven women the ability to proceed under pseudonyms in the case, saying that the social media threats and insults they’ve encountered don’t demonstrate enough real harm to outweigh the public’s interest in following the case – including the parties’ names.
“Lawsuits are public events,” Johnson ruled. “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 countered, saying the judge should reconsider this order in light of progressing violence.
“The difficulty with the Court’s decision,” said the women in their Friday filing, “is that anonymity cannot be restored if the ‘present’ circumstances change. And they have.”
The filing then cited the Thursday attack on women’s-rights activist Riley Gaines, as well as a transgender person’s March 27 murder of six people in a school shooting, and the Thursday arrest of a transgender teen who was allegedly plotting shootings in multiple schools in Colorado.
Both transgender people and women’s-rights activists face death threats and violence following events like these, said the request.
‘Asked For It’
Johnson in his order said that it is only in highly exceptional cases that judges let parties proceed under pseudonyms.
“Of-age Plaintiffs bring any social media backlash, or celebrity, on themselves,” said Johnson.
The women challenged that statement.
“It is unclear whether this means that Internet death threats are not to be taken seriously or that the Plaintiffs are like the sexual assault victim who ‘asked for it,’” the plaintiffs’ request said.
It’s Out There
In their March 27 lawsuit against the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, the women identified themselves as “Jane Doe” and referred to the transgender sorority member as “Terry Smith.”
But the transgender inductee, Artemis Langford, has not been publicly anonymous for months. Langford in October gave a public interview to the University of Wyoming student paper the Branding Iron, about being Kappa Kappa Gamma’s first transgender member. Langford also has become a well-known figure as the legislative intern for the Wyoming Democratic Party.
“The Plaintiffs are not similarly situated,” said the women’s filing. “Smith has put his own name out in the public forum; the Plaintiffs have not.”
The filing said that Langford, “Smith,” agreed to be identified in the Branding Iron’s March 30 story on the lawsuit.
“The girls, as Plaintiffs, have not done so,” the filing continued.
Johnson in his denial order said that court parties should not be allowed to “cower behind an anonymity shield.”
The women said that characterization “is untrue and does not reflect this Court’s usual temperate approach to difficult issues.”
‘Kindness, Not Anger And Harassment’
Some of the women sleep with bars over their doors, the filing said. Unlike Langford, who does not yet live in the sorority house but visits occasionally, everyone knows where the women live.
“Their only current protection is that the general public does not know which of the forty or so residents they are,” the filing said.
Although the women’s situation is different from Langford’s, the request said, the women hope to see Langford also treated with “kindness, not anger and harassment.”
Riley Gaines is a former University of Kentucky swimmer and an avid proponent of women’s rights in sports. When she spoke Thursday at San Francisco State University, numerous transgender-rights activists protested. Some screamed obscenities at Gaines, such as “fucking transphobic bitch,” while police escorted her through the crowd and into a classroom.
Gaines said she was “physically hit twice by a man” during the struggle and remained barricaded in the classroom until the confrontation subsided.
The filing also referenced a controversial meme that Wyoming Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, posted to social media last week, which provoked backlash from some Republicans and a public rebuke by House Speaker Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale.
The meme showed a woman brandishing a rifle and the caption “Auntie Fa Says protect trans folks against fascists & bigots.”
“Auntie Fa” is a homonym for Antifa, a left-wing protest group.
While many Republicans accused Provenza of encouraging violence, numerous commenters said the meme was meant as a tribute to transgender people’s right to armed self-defense.
Provenza apologized publicly “for failing to recognize the potential impact of my actions on social media, which have contributed to inflammatory and distracting online discourse.”
Sommers noted that Provenza has received death threats for posting the meme.
Clair McFarland can be reached at: Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com