Appeals Court Tosses Sorority Sisters’s Lawsuit Alleging Transgender Member Displayed ‘Inappropriate’ Behavior

The women allege that the transgender member questioned them about their genitals, taped them without their consent, and displayed an erection in their sorority house, which was meant to be a ‘single-sex haven.’

Kappa Kappa Gamma University of Wyoming/Facebook
Transgender sorority member Artemis Langford is pictured (top left) with fellow Kappa Kappa Gamma members. Kappa Kappa Gamma University of Wyoming/Facebook

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has tossed an appeal of a lawsuit challenging a national sorority’s admission of a transgender student, ruling that it lacked jurisdiction over the matter. 

Central to the case — dubbed by some observers as likely “the most important controversy affecting college Greek life” — was a debate over what the definition of a woman is. Since its founding in 1870, Kappa Kappa Gamma had specified that members were to be a “woman” — but in 2015, it began interpreting women as including “individuals who identify as women” as well as biological females. 

Six sorority women from the University of Wyoming were appealing a dismissal of the lawsuit by a district court that agreed with Kappa’s arguments that it had a right as a private organization to define its own terms and bylaws.

The sorority sisters, in their appeal, said Kappa was founded as a “single-sex haven for collegiate women” at a time when women didn’t have many privileges that men had, and said redefining that term was a violation of Kappa’s contractual obligations with its members. 

Yet the Tenth Circuit ruled on Wednesday that “we lack subject matter jurisdiction over this appeal due to the absence of a final order by the district court,” tossing the appeal. 

“In the district court, Appellants may stand on their existing complaint and seek a dismissal with prejudice so that they may perfect an appeal, or they may amend the complaint and pursue further proceedings in the district court,” the circuit judges wrote. They did not weigh in on the definition of women and whether transgender members should be admitted to a sorority. 

Women “unquestionably has multiple definitions,” an attorney for Kappa Kappa Gamma argued before the appeals court in May in defense of the organization’s admission of a transgender member.

That student, a six-foot-two biological male named Artemis Langford, had displayed “inappropriate and odd behavior” in the restricted areas of the sorority house, the six sorority women allege in court documents. 

“Langford has, while watching members enter the sorority house, had an erection visible through his leggings,” the filing notes. “At a slumber party, Langford ‘repeatedly questioned the women about what vaginas look like, [and] breast cup size,’ and stared as one Plaintiff changed her clothes,” it states, while noting that “Langford also took pictures of female members ‘without their knowledge or consent.’”

After arguments for the appeal before a three-judge panel, the sorority sisters’ attorney, May Mailman, told the Sun that the Tenth Circuit signaled it wanted “to avoid this case desperately” on procedural issues so it didn’t have to engage with the pressing issues of whether sorority women can sue directors for “forcing a man into the sorority in violation of the bylaws.” She also said the dismissal would mean “the end of the road for these girls in court.” 

An attorney for Kappa wasn’t immediately responsive to a request for comment.

The New York Sun

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