Wyoming sorority locked in legal battle over trans woman’s admission

Members of Wyoming University sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

A group of US students have revived a lawsuit suing a University of Wyoming sorority club after it admitted its first-ever transgender member.

Six members of the University of Wyoming’ Wyoming’s Kapa Kappa Gamma sorority requested an appeals court to revive the lawsuit on Tuesday (14 May) after they argued against the organisation’s definition of a woman.

The Kappa Fraternity Council changed the Wyoming sorority’s definition of women to include trans feminine individuals in 2015 and accepted its first transgender member in 2022.

A case brought against Kappa Kappa Gamma and its president, Mary Pat Rooney, was dismissed in August 2023 by Wyoming judge Alan Johnson, who wrote that the plaintiffs failed to justify the legal complaint and declaring that the court “will not define a ‘woman’ today.”

The group has since appealed to the 10th US Circuit Court, who heard the case in a three-judge panel on Tuesday.

“The sorority avoided an honest conversation,” attorney May Mailman argued on behalf of the group.

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Stock image of a trans flag waving in the wind
A Trans Pride flag. (Getty Images)

Judges in the appeals panel questioned whether the 10th Circuit had jurisdiction to hear the case since it had been dismissed without prejudice.

She said the initial decision included “very specific instructions on how to fix your complaint and refile,” arguing that the dismissal by judge Johnson is “not final.”

Attorney Kate McLaughlin, representing Kappa Kappa Gamma, argued that the term ‘woman’ was “not subject to a singular definition” prior to the change, since it was undefined in the organisation’s bylaws.

“Everyone in this large and diverse organisation of over 210,000 individuals does not interpret that term in the same way,” she said.

Four of the six sorority sisters reportedly spoke during a rally after the hearing, arguing that they had been “belittled” for wanting to exclude the trans student.

“I can attest to the toll it takes on young women,” one of the students, Hannah Holtmeier, said. “Mentally knowing that at any point I could walk into the bathroom, or step out of the shower, to a… man is terrifying.”

Mailman told those at the rally that the court did “not want to address” the question of how to define a woman, claiming that they “know what it is.”

“The court was looking to try and find small reasons not to hear this case,” she argued. “They’re trying to avoid that because somehow there have been pressures in society that have minimised the importance of women in society and women’s spaces.”