A Wyoming judge dismissed six women’s case against national sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma (KKG) Tuesday, allowing a biological male to remain a member despite allegations of sexual impropriety.
KKG’s chapter at the University of Wyoming (UW) initiated Artemis Langford, a biological male who self-identifies as a woman, in December 2022, while plaintiffs Jaylyn Westenbroek, Hannah Holtmeier, Allison Coghan, Grace Choate, Madeline Ramar and Megan Kosar were members.
The six women, bolstered by corroborating accounts from five other KKG members (who didn’t join the suit for jurisdictional reasons), sued the sorority and its Fraternity Council President in March after Langford’s alleged sexual impropriety caused them emotional damage and prevented them from “[being] able to live and socialize in an all-female environment” (p. 46).
U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson’s ruling is a mixed bag. The case is tricky because the sisters aren’t suing Langford for his alleged behavior, they’re suing the sorority for letting him in. Private, voluntary organizations have many constitutional protections, so it’s perhaps unsurprising Johnson would dismiss some of the sisters’ claims.
However, Johnson doesn’t consider any of Langford’s alleged sexual harassment in his ruling, calling it “irrelevant”, “unsubstantiated” and “unbefitting federal court”. Johnson also accepts Langford’s initiation as legitimate, despite the women’s allegations the voting and recruitment processes were rigged.
These crucial omissions from Johnson’s ruling seem to reflect society’s larger tolerance for biological men identifying as women to enter women’s spaces.
Now, I’m wondering what a trans-identifying biological male would have to do to a woman before the court, the media and the public conclude he’s a predator?
The Ruling — What Makes Sense and What’s Confusing
Westenbroek and co. sued KKG on behalf of all its members for improper leadership, alleging national sorority officials illegally amended the organization’s bylaws to include admittance to “individuals who identify as women,” rather than women alone (p. 24-25, 64, 67).
Additionally, they claim KKG broke its contracts with members, violating its promise that members would “be able to live and socialize in an all-female environment” by initiating a biological male (p. 63).
The six women also sue Fraternity Counsel President Mary Rooney — who has final say over which initiates get approved — on behalf of themselves, arguing Langford’s admission caused them “loss of privacy, frustration of contractual expectations and emotional distress” (p. 69).
Johnson dismisses the women’s first claim on free speech grounds, citing previous rulings that courts can’t interfere with “the management and internal affairs” of private, voluntary organizations. Further, the law protects private organizations’ rights to “interpret and administer” their constitutions and bylaws without court involvement (p. 26).
These free speech protections are so stringent, in part, because the sorority is voluntary — the sisters can leave if they don’t like KKG’s policies (p. 33).
Johnson dismisses the women’s contract violation claim because KKG’s membership agreement only lists requirements of members, not of the sorority itself. While sorority leadership may have promised pledges specific opportunities, the membership agreement doesn’t contractually obligate KKG to provide it (p. 34).
The women’s special grievance against Rooney requires they show her actions harmed them specifically, as opposed to harming all sorority members equally. Johnson found any “contractual frustration” from Rooney’s actions, “if any,” hurt the whole sorority — or at least the whole chapter — so Johnson dismissed the claim (p. 39).
The judge’s legal reasoning up to this point, though disappointing, is easy to understand.
It gets confusing, however, when Johnson dismisses outright the sisters’ reported “loss of privacy” and “emotional distress” from Rooney’s actions. Since the women are suing Rooney, reasons Johnson, not Langford, the women shouldn’t have included Langford’s alleged behavior in the complaint (p. 38-39).
But the law requires the women show how Rooney’s decision to initiate Langford harmed them in measurable ways. The women claim Langford’s alleged conduct, enabled by Rooney, is what caused the harm, so it must be included in the complaint.
Even if the judge disagrees Rooney’s choices harmed the women, refusing to address the allegations entirely seems strange. Going so far as to call their claims “unbefitting federal court” feels like an expression of egregious callousness toward six girls — and five witnesses — claiming their sorority allowed them to be sexually harassed in their home for a semester (p. 40).
What the Ruling Leaves Out
In the ruling’s section on background, Johnson writes:
“Unadorned, this case condenses to this: Who decides whether Langford is a Kappa Kappa Gamma sister? Though given the opportunity to vote this past fall, not the six Plaintiffs. Not KKG’s Fraternity Council. Not even this federal Court. The University of Wyoming chapter voted to admit — and, more broadly, a sorority of hundreds of thousands approved — Langford” (p. 3).
This passage suggests the UW chapter initiated Langford legitimately — but the women allege chapter leadership, with the encouragement and direction of national sorority leaders and alumnae advisors, flouted recruitment and voting rules to ensure he got in.
Langford applied to Kappa Kappa Gamma in Fall 2022, during rush week, but dropped out midway through. The women, having interviewed Langford, were relieved — they had told the chapter’s membership chair Langford, “lacked passion for the sorority experience” (p. 52).
Unbeknownst to them, the chapter membership chair was helping Langford enter KKG through continuous open bidding, a process allowing students to join a sorority year-round if there’s unfilled space in the sorority house (p. 52-53).
The women allege national sorority leadership and alumnae advisors made it clear to chapter leadership that Langford should be admitted (p. 53, 54).
During continuous open bidding, the women claim, meet-and-greet events between existing and potential members are typically set up through a group chat. In contrast, chapter leadership only mentioned one event to meet Langford — at the same chapter meeting his candidacy was announced — and never distributed written reminders (p. 52-53).
When the women discovered Langford was being considered for initiation, the Membership Chair allegedly assured them there was “nearly 100%” chance he wouldn’t be admitted, and that he couldn’t stay in the sorority house unless all members agreed (p. 53).
The chapter president, sitting next to the membership chair, later denied making these assurances according to the women (p. 57).
KKG rules require all chapter members to participate in an initiation vote unless they are given written excuse to abstain. Langford’s vote was not announced before-hand. Unaware the vote was occurring, and having met the requirements to skip a chapter meeting, one of the women and a non-party witness were absent and subsequently prevented from voting (p. 55).
Prior to the vote, chapter leadership reportedly suggested voting against Lanford’s initiation was bigoted (p. 55), stating:
Regardless of what your political views are, our Kappa values are acceptance and kindness so if that is something that you disagree with, that’s not in line with Kappa values (p. 56).
It’s 2022. If you vote no, it better be for, like, literal issues with that new member or else it’s homophobic.
If your concerns are only about [Langford] living in the house, you are thinking too far down the road.
The vote reportedly occurred over Google Poll, rather than the special, anonymous platform specified by sorority rules. After members voted the first time, a second poll was sent out — this time not anonymous. Chapter leadership reportedly went to every resident in the sorority house to watch them vote (p. 53, 56-57).
Some votes changed in Langford’s favor between the anonymous poll and the final poll. Langford was initiated by either “one or two votes.” His initiation would have been avoided if the absent plaintiff and witness had been included or if the vote had been anonymous (p. 57).
Langford’s initiation was approved by the national sorority and Mary Rooney, despite the women’s claims of improper voting and that Langford’s GPA should have automatically excluded her membership. When the women objected, KKG officials reportedly told them to resign (p. 58, 59).
Judge Johnson seems to take Langford’s initiation at face-value, despite the women and witnesses’ testimony to the contrary. It’s concerning that he does not explain his reasoning for omitting these claims.
Additionally, Johnson’s wording makes it seem as though every member of the entire KKG organization — “hundreds of thousands” of people — voted on and eventually approved Langford’s initiation. In reality, a group of national sorority delegates decide whether the member can be initiated. The fraternity council holds sway over this decision, which Johnson minimizes in his statement.
The totality of the ruling’s omissions and insinuations enforce its portrayal of the women as “embittered” by their sorority’s legitimate decision to admit Langford, whom the ruling describes as the women’s “sorority sister” (p. 2).
Johnson’s narrative is particularly galling considering what Langford is accused of.
According to the complaint, Langford is a 6-foot-2, 260 pound biological male who “makes little effort to resemble a woman” (p. 49, 50). He has reportedly not undergone any transgender medical interventions, such as female hormone treatments, top, or bottom surgery. He has not had cosmetic treatments, like laser hair removal, to appear more feminine (p. 50). He rarely wears women’s clothing and, despite multiple opportunities to change his legal gender identification, his driver’s license states he’s male.
When Langford was initiated into the sorority, he was given access to all areas of the sorority house, including places where men aren’t allowed (p. 36-37). Though he lived off-campus at the time of the suit, Langford was in the house regularly and sometimes slept there (p. 37, 59).
Langford is sexually attracted to women, according to the complaint (p. 50). He has reportedly become visibly aroused on multiple occasions while watching sorority members, sometimes without their knowledge. He has also taken pictures of sorority members without their knowledge (p. 60, 61).
Langford has allegedly asked sorority members uncomfortable questions, including about the appearance of female genitalia.
At a sorority sleepover event, Langford allegedly became visibly aroused while watching one of the plaintiffs change her top. According to the woman, he has since asked her repeatedly about her romantic relationships (p. 61).
On another occasion, Langford reportedly attended an all-sorority yoga class with one of the plaintiffs. He did not participate, but watched the class in its entirety from the back of the room. He did not speak to anyone (p. 61).
The women further claim sorority leadership knew about members concerns but didn’t intervene (p. 58).
When women and their parents asked sorority leadership about Langford’s presence in the house, they replied, “Just don’t use the same bathroom that [Artemis] uses” and “since [Artemis] identifies as a woman you have no reason to feel uncomfortable.” Officials reportedly reinforced the idea that if the women objected to Langford’s initiation, they weren’t valuing inclusivity and diversity. Women who’ve pushed against Langford’s membership have been formally disciplined or threatened with discipline (p. 59).
Why It Matters
Judge Johnson’s ruling is disappointing and seems dismissive of the women’s claims, but its far from the biggest problem.
Eleven members of a women’s-only organization were promised, and paid for, female-only housing. The organization not only admitted a biological male but, when faced with repeated concerns about his presence, did nothing, when threatened with legal action, did nothing and when sued, defended his right to be there.
As a young woman, I am struck by the backward-ness of it all. Beyond my belief that God created two distinct genders, each with their own strengths and purposes, I am consistently stunned that biological men can say they are women — Langford didn’t even have to dress like one — and be afforded the protections and privileges generations of women worked hard to carve out for themselves.
I am saddened to see such blatant treatment of these women’s stories. Sexually threatening behavior is unacceptable. At its best, the #MeToo movement sought to make it easier for women to come forward if they were experiencing sexual violence or intimidation. What a massive regression, when an organization invented to further women socially and academically treats their physical, mental and emotional harm so cavalierly.
Again, I pose the question: Qhat will have to happen to a member of the University of Washington’s Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter for the sorority to remove Langford’s membership?
Situations like these, smacking of injustice and fanning righteous anger against our warped culture, require prayer to and comfort from our Mighty God. In John 16:33, He tells us:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (ESV).
Please pray for the safety of women on the University of Wyoming’s campus. Pray that God will grant the women suing Kappa Kappa Gamma peace and strength to continue to fight on behalf of women. Most importantly, pray that Artemis Langford and the officials at KKG would be given clear eyes and convicted hearts, to understand the harm they have done others and turn to Him for grace.
Related articles and resources:
Photo from Shutterstock.