Sorority lawsuit to bar trans woman dismissed: ‘The court will not define “woman” today’

A person holds up a trans flag.

A judge has thrown out a case filed by sorority sisters who wanted to remove a trans woman from their chapter.

The lawsuit, filed by six members of the Kappa Kappa Gamma (KKG) sorority, an all-female group at the University of Wyoming, was dismissed on Friday (25 August) by US district court judge Alan Johnson. 

The lawsuit, filed in March, alleged that the national sorority had ignored its own charter and bylaws by allowing Artemis Langford to enter the all-female sorority.

The plaintiffs wanted damages from the national sorority and for Langford to be removed. 

Johnson ruled that the sisters could not force the “private, voluntary” sorority to use their definition of “woman,” which does not include transgender people, when choosing who to admit.

“The University of Wyoming chapter voted to admit – and, more broadly, a sorority of hundreds of thousands approved – Langford,” Johnson wrote. “With its inquiry beginning and ending there, the court will not define ‘woman’ today.”

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‘Defining “woman” is Kappa Kappa Gamma’s bedrock right’

He suggested that the sorority sisters would need to go through the sorority if they want to remove Langford. 

“Defining ‘woman’ is Kappa Kappa Gamma’s bedrock right as a private, voluntary organisation, and one this court may not invade,” Johnson said in the ruling. 

He concluded that the sisters had failed to prove their allegations against Langford, which included safety concerns, and could not point to any KKG bylaw that defined “woman” as they desired.

The lawsuit comes amid polarised debate around trans rights across, with the question “what is a woman” frequently being asked to stoke division between people. 

On Friday (25 August), former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard called for “love, inclusion and respect” after being asked to define what a woman is by a gender-critical activist.