Judge Denies UW Sorority Members’ Request to Stay Anonymous In Latest Ruling

Plaintiffs have until April 20 to reveal identities or lawsuit will be dismissed

Seven anonymous members of the University of Wyoming's Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority were told Friday by a federal judge that they must reveal their identities in order for their lawsuit against the national chapter to proceed. (Courtesy image via screenshot/Google Maps)

By Ellen Fike

Special to the Wyoming Truth

The seven anonymous members of a University of Wyoming sorority chapter embroiled in a lawsuit have until April 20 to reveal their identities in order to keep their suit alive, a federal judge ruled Friday.

“Plaintiffs…have not shown that they face ‘real, imminent personal danger’ sufficient to overcome the ‘public’s interest in open court proceedings,’” Judge Alan B. Johnson wrote in his ruling.

The 153-page lawsuit was filed by Jane Does I-VII of the UW’s Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority chapter on March 28 in U.S. District Court. It names the national Kappa Kappa Gamma (KKG) sorority, its national council president and a recently inducted transgender member, referred to as “Terry Smith” throughout the suit, as defendants.

The plaintiffs allege that by allowing Smith to join the sorority, national chapter officials violated Kappa Kappa Gamma’s own bylaws, which state the organization is “single-gender.” 

Johnson’s ruling on Friday was actually a reconsideration from one he made on April 6, which also called for the women to reveal their identities in order to proceed with their lawsuit.

“Plaintiffs contend that they are particularly vulnerable because the public is aware of their home address,” Johnson wrote. “More broadly, Plaintiffs argue that the current climate of transgender rights including…a Wyoming representative’s inflammatory social media post…and death threats against the Wyoming representative and KKG-house protestor, requires their anonymity.”

Since the plaintiffs did not prove they were in “real, imminent danger,” Johnson found there was no reason to keep their identities a secret. Johnson also wrote that it was unclear whether the plaintiffs had faced any threats or harassment since filing the lawsuit.

“Plaintiffs’ reliance on the public’s ‘intense interest’ in this case is a double-edged sword,” Johnson wrote. “On one hand, they argue that the case presents a groundbreaking issue of first impression with national implications. But on the other, they say that same generalized scrutiny precipitates security risks and warrants their anonymity. Plaintiffs can’t have it both ways.”

The plaintiffs oppose the chapter’s induction of Smith, referring to Smith as an adult man throughout their lawsuit and claiming national KKG officials pressured the UW chapter to violate sorority rules, which call for only women to be inducted into the sorority. 

The lawsuit claims that the sorority did not rely on its official bylaws in admitting Smith, but instead followed a sorority guide for supporting LGBTQIA members that stated Kappa Kappa Gamma is a single-gender organization that admits women and people who identify as women.

“Sorority representatives not only approved Mr. Smith’s membership, but national Sorority officials also encouraged chapter officers to pursue Mr. Smith and guided chapter officers in the illegal selection process,” the lawsuit alleges.

Smith lives in a dorm on the UW campus. However, the time Smith has spent in the sorority house has made some of its members uncomfortable, the lawsuit states.

“Mr. Smith stares at women walking to the bathroom,” the lawsuit alleges. “One sorority member walked down the hall to take a shower, wearing only a towel. She felt an unsettling presence, turned, and saw Mr. Smith watching her silently.”

Some of the plaintiffs reached out to the national organization to express concerns about Smith living in the sorority house during the upcoming school year, according to the complaint, but they were allegedly dismissed and told if they were uncomfortable or concerned about their safety, they should quit the sorority altogether.

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