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Judge dismisses lawsuit against UW sorority, transgender sister

A 72-page complaint against Artemis Langford and Kappa Kappa Gamma failed to adequately state a claim, according to the ruling.

Artemis Langford poses for a portrait in August 2023. (Niki Chan Wylie/WyoFile)

LARAMIE, Wyo. — A federal judge on Friday dismissed a civil lawsuit against Kappa Kappa Gamma and the first openly transgender woman to join a sorority at the University of Wyoming. 

In a 41–page decision, U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson concluded that the plaintiffs in the case failed to adequately state a claim against Artemis Langford and her sorority.

“We are elated that the Court saw the allegations against Ms. Langford our way: as unsubstantiated and unbefitting of a federal court. As Ms. Langford outlined in her Motion to Dismiss, the allegations against her were largely unrelated to any legal claims the plaintiffs raised. But they are being used to crowdfund nonetheless,” Rachel Berkness, Langford’s attorney, said in a statement to WyoFile. “Ms. Langford can now return to campus and focus on being a student rather than having to worry about potentially defending herself against bogus claims.”

The suit came in response to Kappa Kappa Gamma admitting Langford into the sorority last fall. She was admitted by a vote of UW chapter’s membership, which Johnson noted in his decision.

“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. The delegate of a private, voluntary organization interpreted ‘woman’, otherwise undefined in the non-profit’s bylaws, expansively; this Judge may not invade Kappa Kappa Gamma’s freedom of expressive association and inject the circumscribed definition Plaintiffs urge.” 

History

In April, six of Langford’s sorority sisters asked the federal court to void her membership because she is transgender. The plaintiffs, who originally sought anonymity in their suit, alleged in a 72-page complaint that the private organization broke its bylaws, breached housing contracts and misled members when it admitted Langford. 

The plaintiffs also accused Langford of “inappropropriate” behavior and said her attraction to women made her “more threatening.” But those allegations were not just irrelevant to the plaintiffs’ claims but “unbefitting in federal court,” according to the ruling. 

Berkness pointed to the significance of the judge using Langford’s correct pronouns, in contrast to the misgendering throughout the complaint. 

The ruling was “without prejudice,” a designation that leaves the plaintiffs the option to refile.

Johnson, however, advised the plaintiffs to “devote more than 6% of their complaint to their legal claims against defendants,” if they choose to restart litigation.

“Plaintiffs should not copy and paste their complaint in lieu of elaboration or legal research that assists the Court in disentangling their claims,” Johnson added. 

Cassie Craven and John Knepper, legal counsel for the plaintiffs — which included Jayln Westernbroek, Hannah Holtmeier, Allison Coghan, Grace Choate, Madeline Ramar and Megan Kosar — declined to comment on the ruling or whether they would refile the lawsuit. 

The U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. (Madelyn Beck/WyoFile)

Langford’s historic admission into the sorority and the subsequent lawsuit caught the attention of some of the biggest names in conservative media. Much of the media frenzy over the past year has scrutinized Langford’s physical appearance and depicted her as a sexual predator masquerading as a young woman in order to gain access to the sorority. Altogether, the heightened visibility has made the 21-year-old Langford’s everyday life as a small-town college student challenging, she said.  

“My only regret is how much pain the lawsuit has caused my sisters caught in between all this and also all the loved ones in my life,” she told WyoFile in an earlier interview. 

“I’m never gonna give up on organizations, issues and people that I love,” Langford added. “I’m proud to be a member of my chapter and I don’t think I’ll ever regret being a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma.” 


This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.

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