Sorority sister anonymity barred in Wyoming transgender suit

Apr 7, 2023, 12:23 PM

FILE - In this June 14, 2016, file photo, two people walk on the University of Wyoming campus in La...

FILE - In this June 14, 2016, file photo, two people walk on the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie, Wyo. Seven women who have sued to challenge the admission of a transgender woman to their sorority at the University of Wyoming can't remain anonymous in court, a judge has ruled in a case highlighting tension over belonging for transgender people in the least-populated state. The women must refile their lawsuit with their real names by April 20, U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson in Cheyenne wrote Thursday, April 6, 2023. (Shannon Broderick/Laramie Boomerang via AP, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Shannon Broderick/Laramie Boomerang via AP, File)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Seven women who have sued to challenge the admission of a transgender woman to their sorority at the University of Wyoming can’t remain anonymous in court, a judge has ruled in a case highlighting tension over belonging for transgender people in the least-populated state.

The women must refile their lawsuit with their real names by April 20, U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson in Cheyenne wrote Thursday.

“The bottom line is this. Lawsuits are public events, and the public, especially here, has an important interest in access to legal proceedings,” Johnson wrote. “Plaintiffs may not levy serious accusations without standing behind them.”

The seven women identify themselves only as “Jane Does” in their lawsuit filed March 27 accusing Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority of breaking its own rules while admitting the transgender woman last fall. The sorority national office pressured the University of Wyoming chapter to violate those rules, the lawsuit alleges.

The transgender woman, identified in the lawsuit only by the pseudonym “Terry Smith,” also is a defendant. Johnson is not requiring disclosure of her identity.

An attorney for the seven women, John Knepper, declined to comment Friday on Johnson’s order but said he planned to file a court document responding to it soon.

Smith declined to comment in an email Friday.

The lawsuit claims her presence in the Kappa Kappa Gamma house made some sorority members uncomfortable. Smith would sit on a couch for hours while “staring at them without talking,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit asks Johnson to declare Smith’s sorority membership void and to award unspecified damages. The damages should reflect the local chapter’s decline in financial stability and donations because of Smith’s induction last fall, the lawsuit alleges.

Kappa Kappa Gamma officials didn’t respond Friday when asked to comment on Johnson’s order. Executive Director Kari Kittrell Poole has said previously the lawsuit contains numerous false allegations.

Smith, 21, doesn’t live among the 44 women currently residing in the Sorority Row house because of housing commitments elsewhere, according to the lawsuit.

The University of Wyoming campus in Laramie has a long history of wrangling with LGBTQ+ issues since the murder of gay freshman Matthew Shepard in 1998 drew attention to them nationwide. Wyoming, along with South Carolina, is one of just two states that has not adopted a hate-crimes law since Shepard’s murder.

Republican Gov. Mark Gordon recently allowed a ban on transgender athletes in precollege interscholastic athletics to become law without his signature.

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Sorority sister anonymity barred in Wyoming transgender suit