The fight to define “woman” is coming to Denver, but not through our normal political process. A lawsuit that started inside of a sorority house at the University of Wyoming has reached the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, where judges will hear arguments next month.

When the Wyoming chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma initiated a transgender-identifying male into their sisterhood and their shared sorority house, other members saw this as a violation of the sorority’s bylaws, which restrict membership to women only. Six plaintiffs filed suit.

Whether women-only spaces should include males who identify as women is a monumental question for the women involved, and should be settled through a democratic process. If desired, KKG can update its membership rules to welcome people who aren’t biological women.

But it seems the leadership of the sorority didn’t want that. They wanted to reinvent the definition of “women” in the sorority’s governing documents to add its opposite, without asking or telling anyone.

Many legislators and bureaucrats don’t want to use the democratic process, either. They’d also rather this matter be decided by judges or Supreme Court Justices like Ketanji Brown Jackson, who famously declined to offer a definition of “woman” during her confirmation hearing.

Most Americans (57%) believe that “whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by the sex they were assigned at birth.” And most (over 60%) say that “trans women and girls should not be allowed to compete in sports with other women and girls.”

For this reason, Colorado lawmakers will not let legislation to protect women’s sports, or other women-only spaces, see the light of day. The “Women’s Rights in Athletics” bill was killed 8-3 in committee in the Colorado legislature in 2023, never getting a floor vote.

Similarly, special interests have been fighting hard to keep this issue off the ballots of Colorado voters. Ballot initiative #160 “Public Athletics Programs for Minors” would limit participation in girls’ sports to females “based on biological sex at birth.” Opponents of the measure appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court and attempted to deny voters the chance to weigh in. Fortunately, the Court just ruled that the initiative can proceed to the signature collection process required of all ballot initiatives.

It’s not just sororities and sports—fun things!—where the definition of “women” matters. Women and men are segregated in prisons, locker rooms, bathrooms, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, and dormitories.

In all of these areas, there are implications for women’s safety and privacy if “women” no longer refers to a biological reality but instead a subjective gender identity.

By simply redefining “woman” to include anyone who identifies as a woman, the political Left (and civic institutions like youth sports leagues or “women”-only volunteer organizations) have achieved policy changes that majorities of Americans might not have voted for or supported. In this sense, opening women’s spaces to males who identify as female represents an undemocratic or “back door” change—one that is likely to stoke negativity, as people (rightly) do not feel that they had any say in how this change was made.

That’s why five states have adopted a “Women’s Bill of Rights” that clarifies the definition of the word woman to accord with biological sex, and not gender identity. Importantly—especially for a state like Colorado—the Women’s Bill of Rights does not dictate that any space or sport exclude people who identify as transgender. It simply requires that policy decisions about sex and gender identity be made and communicated clearly, through a transparent, democratic process.

Instead, forcing these hot-button cultural debates into the courtroom will only foment frustration, as too many Americans feel they have no say. The KKG plaintiffs certainly felt this way when their sorority house welcomed a male member to live alongside them. They felt, and feel, that their privacy, safety, and sisterhood are violated by this change.

If the meanings of words can be changed after-the-fact, in laws or other agreements, we will lose the ability to hold anyone accountable to a contract, including the most basic social contract—that between the government and the governed.

Next time Denver plays host to a debate about what it means to be a woman, let’s hope it’s in the statehouse, not a courthouse.