UW Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority members oppose motions to dismiss

Jasmine Hall with the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, via the Wyoming News Exchange

CHEYENNE — Six members of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at the University of Wyoming have filed responses in opposition to dismissing defendants from a lawsuit that was sparked by the induction of the first transgender woman into the sorority’s ranks.


Kappa Kappa Gamma defendants at the national level, including Council President Mary Rooney, and the Wyoming Kappa housing company urged the federal district court to dismiss the case against them toward the end of June, and plaintiffs argued their motion “distorts both the allegations in the complaint and the relief that the plaintiffs seek.”


“Kappa Kappa Gamma is a nonprofit corporation that has, for more than 150 years, limited membership to women only,” Cheyenne attorneys Cassie Craven and John Knepper wrote on behalf of the plaintiffs. “As Kappa’s motion to dismiss makes clear, Rooney and the rest of the Fraternity Council have decided that Kappa must ‘evolve.’ But corporations do not evolve.They change when the corporation’s Articles of Incorporation or bylaws are amended.”


They argue the plaintiffs, as members of the nonprofit corporation, have the right to insist the corporation follow its bylaws, and when the board of directors refuses, to seek backup from the courts.


“Plaintiffs do not dispute that Kappa Kappa Gamma can change its membership criteria,” according to the response. “They dispute whether it has lawfully done so.”


The sorority members seeking relief from the courts and the removal of transgender member Artemis Langford and any future transgender students from Kappa Kappa Gamma also disputed the four reasons defendants gave for seeking to dismiss the complaint.These span the Wyoming court lacking jurisdiction over President Rooney and the plaintiffs’ claim for breach of contract, as well as the argument that “the evolution of the word ‘woman’ allows the sorority leaders to admit men who claim to be women as members without any change to the bylaws.”


In the 21-page filing, attorneys address not only the jurisdiction the court may have over the case, but also that the plaintiffs’ argument was allegedly misrepresented by the defendants.They state that they want to hold the current leadership of the corporation accountable for ignoring bylaws and “pretending they are above the law,” and welcome change of the bylaws and official policies through the correct methods.


“Kappa’s motion to dismiss is unsurprising in some ways, as it provides the consistent response that plaintiffs have received since they first raised their concerns in September 2022: sit down and shut up. Or quit,” the response states. “This attitude reflects the arrogance of the underlying attempt at the unlawful transformation of a 150-year-old institution.”


They add, “this court should be sensitive to the numerous unsupported factual allegations that are introduced in Kappa’s response. Kappa states that it has had a policy to admit men since 2015.The difficulty is that there is no evidence of this fact.”This was in reference to the defendants’ memorandum of support for dismissing the lawsuit, where Kappa officials state they have allowed “chapters to accept transgender women.That policy mirrors those of the 25 other national and international sororities that are a part of the National Panhellenic Conference.”



“Indeed, to the extent that this policy existed, it appears to have been concealed,” plaintiffs’ attorneys argue. “Plaintiffs have not yet claimed fraud in their complaint, but this new detail suggests that this is only a matter of time.To the extent that Kappa leaders have had a policy to admit men who claim to be women, but the organization has held itself out as all-female, the national sorority has engaged in fraud.”


They requested the court deny the motion from sorority officials to dismiss the lawsuit and allow the plaintiffs to be fully heard in the matter, but their argument continued in a second filing in response to the motion to dismiss by Langford.They refer to the defendant with male pronouns throughout both court documents, even though Langford identifies as a woman with she/her pronouns.


“Langford makes two legal arguments in support of his motion to dismiss,” according to plaintiffs’ second request to deny throwing out the case. “The plaintiffs chose not to seek monetary damages from Langford directly in the initial complaint, although his conduct would support claims under Wyoming law. So, Langford argues that because plaintiffs do not seek damages from him directly, that he should be dismissed from the suit entirely.”


Cheyenne attorneys Craven and Knepper argue that this is not required under 10th Circuit precedent, “which allows plaintiffs to join Langford in the complaint without alleging cause of action.”


Additionally, they dispute that the court should dismiss the complaint against the first transgender woman accepted into Kappa Kappa Gamma “with prejudice because the allegations are too numerous and detailed.”


“The Rules of Civil Procedure do not operate as yet one more tool to silence these young women about their experiences with Langford and the basis of their claims and damages,” the response states. “Langford understands exactly what is alleged in this verified complaint, and plaintiffs’ response is the same as it was to the national sorority officials when they were told to keep quiet about what was happening to them: no.”


At the end of the 14-page response to Langford, the plaintiffs address a more personal stance on the lawsuit and the need to be heard in federal district court. Attorneys open up about some of the plaintiffs being sexually assaulted in the past, and “suffering real physical and emotional damages as a result of Langford’s terror in their home, the monetary damage of which is extensive special damages far above the jurisdictional threshold required in the case of this nature.”


“Langford’s motion is an attempt to portray himself as a victim when, in fact, he is the man who has harmed these young women who have done no more than demand the safe space they were promised for their college experience,” according to Craven and Knepper.


Their attorneys said some of the young women are not be able to go home, have experienced adverse health reactions as they dropped from the sorority or moved away to go to a different college.


“It is unclear why — when a large man pushes his way into an all-female space — the women who object are the bullies,” the attorneys wrote in conclusion. “Plaintiffs have denied dozens of national and international press requests, but they want their voices heard by this court to prevent their victimization from occurring to other women who may be afraid to stand up for themselves.


“They are labeled attention-seeking liars, an old playbook from our history when women call out the men who force themselves upon them and their privacy. But, the times have changed. Women no longer must be silent victims to men who attempt to play by their own set of rules.”


The federal district court of Wyoming has yet to weigh in on the motions to dismiss or requests to deny them.


This story was published on July 12, 2023. 


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