• The women who sued sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma last march appeared in court Tuesday morning to begin their appeal.
  • The women accuse KKG of improperly and dishonestly initiating Artemis Langford, a man who identifies as a woman.
  • Supporters from across the country, including all-American swimmer Riley Gaines, joined the women in court.
  • KKG’s lawyer, Natalie McLaughlin, told the judges, “[The word] “woman” is unquestionably undefined.”

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in Westenbroek v. Kappa Kappa Gamma on Tuesday — more than a year after six college students first accused the national sorority of improperly initiating a man.

Jaylyn Westenbroek, Hannah Holtmeier, Allie Coghan, Maddie Ramar, Grace Choate and Megan Kosar were all members of Kappa Kappa Gamma (KKG) at the University of Wyoming in December 2022, when their chapter initiated Artemis Langford, a man who identifies as a woman, into their sisterhood.

Westenbroek and company took KKG and its fraternity council president to court just four months later, arguing the sorority broke its own bylaws by admitting Langford, a man — a decision the women allege exposed them to sexual harassment and emotional harm.

U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson dismissed the women’s case in July 2023 after upholding KKG’s right to “interpret” their own bylaws — including what it means to be a woman.

The appellants hope Judges McHugh, Murphy and Federico will reverse Johnson’s ruling — and they aren’t alone. A crowd of well-wishers, including all-American swimmer and activist Riley Gaines, joined them in court Tuesday to show their support.

May Mailman, the director of the Independent Women’s Law Center and the women’s attorney, argued the merits of the case were sound and should be reconsidered.

She explained KKG had made a concealed and dishonest effort to expand the definition of “woman” to include a person’s “gender identity” — their internal sense of being female. When members and alumni protested the duplicitous change, she continued, they faced inappropriate censure and threats.

It’s a testament to Mailman’s skill that she was able to articulate an argument at all, given she spent most of her allotted fifteen minutes fielding the judges’ questions, including:

  • Whether the 10th circuit had jurisdiction of the case.
  • Whether the women had adequately pursued their grievances in lower courts.
  • Whether the women had made enough effort to resolve their grievances with Kappa Kappa Gamma outside of court.
  • Whether the District Court in Wyoming had been aware of all of the women’s grievances against Kappa Kappa Gamma.
  • Whether it is appropriate to sue the fraternity council president, who can’t change sorority policy unilaterally.

The judges’ reception of the women’s case might seem hostile, but Mailman remained optimistic.

“The court was looking for small reasons not to hear this case,” she explained to supporters at a press conference following her arguments. “The core of this case is whether it’s wrong for the leaders of a [women-only] organization to secretly and dishonestly try and change its bylaws — and they know the answer is yes.”

Addressing the judges’ apparent reluctance to weigh in, Mailman theorized,

They are trying to avoid [that judgement] because there have been pressures in society that have minimized the importance of women and women’s spaces and made it OK for people to act like they’ve forgotten what a woman is.

Kappa Kappa Gamma’s attorney, Natalie McLaughlin, had more uninterrupted time to read her prepared arguments — but she faced more questions about the content of her case.

McLaughlin claimed KKG had never changed their bylaws, only its interpretation of them. Expanding the definition of “woman” to include people who “identify” as women is a perfectly reasonable interpretation, she argued, because “[The word] ‘woman’ is unquestionably undefined.”

The judges seemed less sure. When asked whether the definition of woman could be expanded so far as to include men, McLaughlin claimed she didn’t have the research to know whether that would be “reasonable.”

McLaughlin’s claims about the ambiguity of womanhood elicited several involuntary gasps from the courtroom’s primarily female audience — none of whom struggled defining the term.

“I never thought I’d have to define what a woman is,” appellant Hannah Holtmeier confessed to supporters. “Seems like that should be pretty common sense.”

Gaines certainly thinks so.

“Everyone in that courtroom knows that men and women are different. You can’t convince me otherwise,” she told the Daily Citizen. “It speaks to where we are as a society now, where we have to — in 2024 — be in federal court arguing about what a woman is.”

Kara Dansky, president of the American Chapter of Women’s Declaration International and author of The Abolition of Sex: How the Transgender Agenda Harms Women and Girls, was similarly unequivocal.

“As [Women’s Declaration International] says in our friend of the court brief in this case, sex is grounded in material reality, whereas gender — including its linguistic derivatives like gender identity, transgender and cisgender — is grounded in regressive sex stereotypes,” she declared unflinchingly.

A testament to the sociopolitical diversity of the people supporting the case against Kappa Kappa Gamma, Dansky concluded,

I am a daughter of the second wave movement for women’s liberation, which hailed from the political left. Those feminists did not fight to secure women’s sex-based rights only to have them thrown away at the altar of the regressive concept of gender identity.

The 10th circuit is expected to rule on Westenbroek v. Kappa Kappa Gamma in the coming months. You can learn more about the women’s appeal here.

Additional Articles and Resources

Judge Allows Man to Stay in Sorority

Anchor Calls Male Accused of Sexual Impropriety a ‘Very Brave Woman’

Women File Appeal in Case of Man Joining Sorority

Sorority Who Admitted Man Kicks Out Two Alumnae for Supporting Women

The Sorority Who Initiated a Man is Being Sued Again — For Initiating Another Man.