Transgender University Of Wyoming Sorority Member Asks To Be Let Out Of Lawsuit

Artemis Langford, a transgender member of the University of Wyoming chapter of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, asked Tuesday to be let out of the lawsuit filed by six women against the sorority, which challenges the court to define the word "woman." 

CM
Clair McFarland

June 21, 20236 min read

Part of the judge's ruling was also dismissing a claim by six UW Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority members against Artemis Langford, the chapter's first transgender member.
Part of the judge's ruling was also dismissing a claim by six UW Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority members against Artemis Langford, the chapter's first transgender member. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Artemis Langford, the first transgender member of Wyoming’s Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority chapter, has asked to be let out of a lawsuit in which six women are suing the sorority’s national organization for allegedly breaking its own rules to induct a male.   

“Ms. Langford exemplifies the best of what a Wyoming woman is,” reads Langford’s Tuesday federal court filing. “Yet she has been dragged before this Court to defend herself against claims which do not require any party to name her personally or to wield repackaged versions of the same vicious rumors that have been used to vilify the transgender community for ages.”  

A group of sorority members sued the Kappa Kappa Gamma national sorority, its president and its Wyoming-based housing corporation in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming in March, saying the sorority violated its own rules to admit Langford into the organization.  

They also added Langford to the lawsuit — not for money, but because they are asking the court to void Langford’s membership. 

No Relief Here 

Langford’s filing by Jackson attorney Rachel M. Berkness claims the women don’t have standing to include Langford in the lawsuit as a method of relief. 

“They … merely name her in this action because they believe she is ‘likely … a required party,’” reads the filing.

But the rule the women cited to include Langford is a tool for defendants to add parties, not plaintiffs, according to Berkness, citing case law from a different federal court.   

Too Wordy 

The women’s complaint is wordy to the point of being an excessive burden, Berkness claims.  

Allegations under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures must be “simple, concise, and direct,” the filing says, arguing that the women’s complaint resembles a rambling press release instead.  

Berkness asserts that one of the women’s attorneys — meaning either Cassie Craven or John Knepper — filed the lawsuit Smith vs. Gordon, a COVID-era suit on behalf of a Laramie high school girl punished for not complying with school COVID mandates.  

“This Court has recently dismissed another case filed by one of the Plaintiffs’ attorneys for (wordiness and confusion)” in Smith vs. Gordon, reads the filing.  

But Nick Beduhn, now suspended from practicing law, is the only attorney the federal court file lists for Smith vs. Gordon — not Craven or Knepper.

‘Insulting Jabs’ 

The filing also accuses the women of using the court to bully Langford and of prejudicing the public against the inductee.  

National outlets Fox News and the Megyn Kelly show featured some of the plaintiffs and their key witnesses, who are fellow sorority members, in stories about transgender and women’s-rights issues.  

Interviewers have taken particular interest in the way the women’s lawsuit complaint describes Langford. The inductee is 21 years old, stands 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs 260 pounds, according to the complaint.  

“No other member of Kappa Kappa Gamma has comparable size or strength,” it adds.  

Berkness called this, and other allegations that Langford doesn’t attempt to resemble a female, jabs against the inductee.

“Included in the muddle of irrelevant allegations are philosophical arguments over what it means to be a woman (are) … insulting jabs at Ms. Langford’s physical appearance … allegations from wholly unrelated lawsuits (and) Ms. Langford’s alleged GPA,” says the filing.  

The women had alleged that Langford’s GPA was lower than the Kappa Kappa Gamma minimum standard.  

“Plaintiffs fling dehumanizing mud throughout their Amended Complaint which has nothing to do with their legal claims but which they nonetheless use to bully Ms. Langford on the national stage,” wrote Berkness. “This, alone, warrants dismissal.”  

The media attention has prompted threats and vitriol, says the filing. It says, "Ms. Langford will spare this Court reference to the countless hateful comments that have stemmed from this lawsuit which call for a mob to kill her."

The filing also accuses the women of using the court to gain recognition and to fundraise, saying they have raised $47,531 of a $250,000 goal on a fundraising website.  

The GiveSendGo website says it is the only crowd-source funding the plaintiffs have authorized.  

The Housing Question 

Langford’s filing calls into question the plaintiffs’ original claim that they asked to live away from the sorority house to avoid having to live with Langford in the fall.  

“Prior to the filing, Ms. Langford had already been granted an exemption from living in the house,” says the filing.  

Berkness attached a letter from Kappa headquarters to the Wyoming chapter’s members and advisors, confirming that Langford sorority leaders already had approved an exemption for Langford from the sorority’s live-in requirement for the 2023-24 school year.  

Also attached is a letter Natalie McLaughlin, one of the sorority’s attorneys, sent to Craven 10 days after she filed the lawsuit. McLaughlin’s letter notifies Craven of Langford’s exemption approval.  

Berkness implies that Hannah Holtmeier, one of the plaintiffs, may have known about the exemption.  

“Holtmeier was the Housing Director at the time (but) appears to have signed the original Complaint as (pseudonym) ‘Jane Doe 1,’” the filing says.  

Craven did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning. One of the lawsuit's filings, however, says the housing contracts are locked in for one year but live-in exemptions may change from semester to semester.

Pronouns Clash

The women’s complaint refers to Langford as “he” and “him.”

The sorority’s Tuesday response and Langford’s filing both call Langford “she” and “her.”

Berkness’ filing says the women are verbally attacking Langford by using male pronouns.

“Plaintiffs repeatedly and deliberately use male pronouns as a verbal barb by which to jab Ms. Langford,” says the filing, citing studies that associate misgendering with depressive and suicidal ideation.

The filing cites U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s use of female pronouns to describe a male-to-female transgender litigant in 2020 landmark case Bostock vs. Clayton County, and a 10th Circuit Court decision to do the same for a different male-to-female litigant.

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

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CM

Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter