Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority Argues Trans Women Are Women

The Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority argued before an appeals court Wednesday that transgender women are women in defending an appeal by six members challenging the University of Wyoming chapter for admitting a transgender member.

CM
Clair McFarland

January 06, 20244 min read

The Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house in Laramie, Wyoming.
The Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house in Laramie, Wyoming. (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)

Arguing Wednesday in a legal appeal against it, the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority asserted that inducting transgender members is reasonable, that it’s the norm among nationally recognized sororities and that it's supported by the dictionary.  

The appeal stems from a 2023 lawsuit in which six members of the University of Wyoming chapter of the sorority sued Kappa Kappa Gamma over the induction of transgender member Artemis Langford. The women lost that lawsuit in August 2023, when U.S. District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson ruled that it’s not the court’s place to define the word “woman” for a private organization.  

The six members challenged Johnson’s ruling days later in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.  

Kappa Kappa Gamma filed its own argument in the appeals court Wednesday, reiterating case law that says a private organization has a First Amendment right to dictate the terms of its membership. 

If It’s ‘Reasonable’ 

But the sorority’s appeal argument unpacks this right against a backdrop of Ohio law, since Kappa is based in Ohio.  

Ohio law generally tells courts not to meddle a voluntary group’s handling of its members, if that group’s actions are “reasonable,” the filing says.  

Expanding the sorority bylaws’ definition of “woman” to include transgender women is not only “reasonable” – it’s the norm across sororities, Kappa’s filing argues. 

“The term ‘woman’ is open to more than one reasonable interpretation,” reads the filing. Defining women as natal females is “one interpretation of the term, but not the only one.”  

All 25 sororities in the National Panhellenic Conference have expanded the definition of the word “woman” to include transgender women, the filing says.  

Twenty-two historically women’s colleges have done so as well.  

Judges Say … 

The argument goes on to quote federal courts in which judges have said that trans women are women, or sex is contingent upon gender identity.  

An Illinois court announced in 2021 that transgender women are “female, just like the women who are permitted to use the women’s bathroom.” A court in the Middle District of Tennessee announced last year that a person can switch between two sexes based on gender identity. 

Kappa’s filing then cites Johnson, who declined altogether to define the word “woman” in this case.  

“The courts have no business creating such definitions,” Johnson wrote when he dismissed the lawsuit.   

Dictionary, Too 

The filing notes that Kappa’s bylaws themselves do not define the word “woman,” but Kappa’s recent interpretive documents do lend it a definition.   

The sorority pointed to recent editions of both the Cambridge and Merriam-Webster dictionaries, which contain definitions for woman to include people who identify as female.  

“The Court does not need to resolve those complicated questions and define what it means to be a woman,” says the filing. “Instead, this Court only needs to decide whether Kappa … interpreted its documents reasonably.”  

Overreach

Alongside its claim that it acted reasonably and therefore didn’t breach its duty to members, Kappa argues that the court would be committing overreach if it hindered the sorority’s induction preferences, in violation of a key Supreme Court case protecting private groups — Boy Scouts of America v. Dale. 

The six women suing the sorority had argued that the Boy Scouts case does not control this lawsuit, because that case involved state government interference and this one is a breach-of-duty claim by the sorority’s own members. They also say that for the sorority to include transgender women, when the bylaws require members to be women, is the opposite of its duty.

The Defense 

Kappa’s other claims say the six members: 

  • Failed to show that it would have been futile for them to simply resolve this issue with the sorority leadership.  

  • Failed to show the sorority acted in bad faith and therefore can’t advance a civil action for its own good.  

  • Failed to show how Kappa leadership had any contract with them to uphold.

  • Failed in Johnson’s court to defend their claims that the sorority’s direct actions harmed them.  

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

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter