The sorority that recently won a federal lawsuit in which six women challenged its University of Wyoming chapter’s induction of a transgender member is confident that it will also win an appeal.
U.S. District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson dismissed the lawsuit brought by six women against Kappa Kappa Gamma last month, saying that as a private organization, the sorority has a right to make and interpret its own rules.
The women sued in March, challenging the University of Wyoming KKG chapter's induction of its first transgender member, Artemis Langford.
One month after their court loss, the women appealed Johnson’s dismissal Monday.
The sorority is confident the appeal also will fail.
“Kappa Kappa Gamma applauds the court’s ruling in Wyoming upholding a private organization’s right to choose their members,” said a sorority spokeswoman in an email. “In this case, a federal judge carefully examined every aspect of the plaintiffs’ allegations and ruled to dismiss this case. We are confident the judge’s thoughtful and decisive ruling in this matter will be upheld.”
Because Of The Boy Scouts
Johnson’s Aug. 25 dismissal relies heavily on a U.S. Supreme Court case from 2000, Boy Scouts of America v. Dale.
In that case, the state of New Jersey imposed a nondiscrimination law requiring the Boy Scouts to appoint openly gay man James Dale as a scoutmaster.
Though some of its members approved of Dale’s appointment, the Boy Scouts fought the law as contrary to its official point of view.
The high court found that as a private organization, the Boy Scouts could make its own membership rules. That right is called freedom of expressive association.
“The First Amendment simply does not require that every member of a group agree on every issue in order for the group’s policy to be ‘expressive association,’” reads a quote from the case, included in Johnson’s dismissal. “The Boy Scouts takes an official position … and that is sufficient for First Amendment purposes.”
When the Kappa women joined the sorority, they relinquished “a dose of personal autonomy,” Johnson continued. “That organization may say or publish something anathema to one or a fraction of members.”
The women suing Kappa Kappa Gamma argued that it violated its own rules so overtly as to breach its contracts with its members — by deviating from the known definition of “woman” in its bylaws without taking official steps to change its bylaws.
They also alleged that the Wyoming chapter changed its voting system to admit Langford in a public, not secret-ballot, vote and that chapter leaders pressured women into voting for the new inductee.
In countering this, Johnson pointed to a “guide” Kappa Kappa Gamma dispatched in 2018, announcing that the sorority consists of women and “individuals who identify as women.”
“While KKG’s bylaws do not reflect the ‘and individuals who identify as women’ addition, accompanying documents … do,” wrote the judge.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.