DENVER, CO — Today, Kappa Kappa Gamma plaintiffs appeared before the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit for the landmark Westenbroek v. Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority lawsuit. The case, led by Independent Women’s Law Center, was heard by Judges Carolyn B. McHugh, Michael R. Murphy, and Richard E. N. Federico.

The plaintiffs were welcomed outside of the court by a large crowd of supporters from across the country, including Kappa Kappa Gamma active and alumnae members, members of several additional National Panhellenic Conference sororities (Delta Gamma, Kappa Alpha Theta, Alpha Chi Omega, Gamma Phi Beta, Chi Omega, Kappa Delta, and Phi Mu), and an ideologically diverse group of women’s advocacy organizations, including Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), Women’s Declaration International, USA Chapter (WDI, USA), Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), and Independent Women’s Network (IWN).

The Westenbroek et al. v. Kappa Kappa Gamma lawsuit seeks to hold Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority (“Kappa”) to its own bylaws, which provide that “a new member shall be a woman.” May Mailman, the plaintiffs’ lead counsel and director of Independent Women’s Law Center, focused arguments on Kappa Kappa Gamma’s breach of fiduciary duty to the sorority. In clear violation of Kappa’s bylaws and the promise it has made to generations of female members since its founding in 1870, in fall 2022, the University of Wyoming chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma was forced to admit (through a pressure campaign orchestrated by Kappa headquarters) a male member. After months of being threatened with discipline for voicing their concerns, several brave Kappa sisters sought to preserve the experience of sisterhood by filing suit. 

By refusing to abide by the “woman” only membership in its own bylaws, Kappa Kappa Gamma has denied women the single-sex sisterhood they were once promised. 

In argument, Natalie M. McLaughlin, attorney for Kappa, stated that “women” is “unquestionably not defined and has multiple definitions.”

The National Panhellenic Conference (“NPC”), which describes itself as “one of the world’s largest organizations advocating for women and the trade association for 26 inter/national women’s-only sororities,” supposedly believing “in the continued value of women’s-only sororities to empower collegiate and alumnae women and provide networks of support for them,” filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Kappa defendants-appellees. Many of the supporters on the ground at the Byron White United States Courthouse, where oral arguments were heard, said this explicitly proves the NPC’s abandonment of women.

Following oral arguments, plaintiffs, Kappa alumnae, and women’s advocates, including Independent Women’s Forum Ambassador Riley Gaines, held a “Save Sisterhood” press conference on the steps of the courthouse, calling upon Kappa Kappa Gamma and the National Panhellenic Conference to stand with women. Here is what they had to say: 

May Mailman, Westenbroek v. Kappa Kappa Gamma lead counsel and Independent Women’s Law Center director:
“Once the women in Wyoming experienced harm as the change was being implemented, Kappa leadership again avoided a good faith interaction, instead applying pressure to ensure unquestioned acceptance; they stripped the membership vote of required anonymity, threatened members with expulsion, and forbade dissenters from voting. They did all this recognizing the harm that would befall Kappa by openly changing the nature of membership, including losing donations and the well-researched claim of benefits to women from single-sex environments.”

Riley Gaines, Independent Women’s Forum ambassador and Gaines et al. v. NCAA lead plaintiff:
“Today during oral arguments, Kappa said that they could not define what a ‘woman’ is, that this is a word that doesn’t have just one singular definition, and there are multiple definitions. They said there wasn’t enough research to be able to fully answer that question accurately.”

“But Independent Women’s Forum is here on the ground as one of the leading women’s organizations fighting for the sanctity of truth, fighting for and defending women’s rights. We are standing for privacy, for safety, and equal opportunity. We are standing for women. The stand that we are taking is pro-woman, not anti-anyone or anything,” Gaines added.

Jaylyn Westenbroek, Westenbroek v. Kappa Kappa Gamma plaintiff and Independent Women’s Forum ambassador:
“All women should have the right to speak up for their own safe spaces and not be threatened by outside voices. The sorority told us to voice any concerns before accepting a male member, but no actions were taken to acknowledge our concerns. Instead, we were told to leave if we were uncomfortable with the situation. It is not okay for someone to tell you to move out of your home in order to feel safe.”

Allie Coghan, Westenbroek v. Kappa Kappa Gamma plaintiff and Independent Women’s Forum ambassador:
“There are women in our sorority who are sexual assault survivors, and allowing a man into our women-only sorority strips them of their safe haven and suddenly makes it a place where they are on edge. Sororities are supposed to be your home away from home where you have women—your sisters—supporting you. It is incredibly unfair to strip us of that sense of security and put us in a situation where we are constantly on edge and have our guard up. To my great disappointment, the psychological toll this experience had on my sisters and me has been overlooked by Kappa Kappa Gamma.” 

Maddie Ramar, Westenbroek v. Kappa Kappa Gamma plaintiff and Independent Women’s Forum ambassador:
“We were promised a strictly women’s organization where only women were allowed. We felt extremely uncomfortable with a male’s presence in the house, as we had to walk through the halls in a towel, to our shared bathroom, where he could do the same. No woman should ever have to feel this discomfort in their own home, especially after not being given any say in the matter. Co-ed spaces are everywhere. But when women are given a promise of privacy and safety, that promise cannot be broken unilaterally by leaders—like the leadership of Kappa Kappa Gamma and National Panhellenic Council—who stopped caring about us.”

Hannah Holtmeier, Westenbroek v. Kappa Kappa Gamma plaintiff and Independent Women’s Forum ambassador:
“To girls across our great country—and their mothers and fathers—if you think you’re in a situation where this issue won’t affect you, think again. Odds are, if we don’t speak up to at least define women’s spaces, you, your daughter, or any other women in your life will be affected. Getting out ahead of this issue is important to stop it from becoming an even larger problem. It’s not fair, it’s not right. I will continue to speak louder until we win.”

Patsy Levang, past president of Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation and member of Independent Women’s Network:
“As former Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation national president, I stand with these younger Kappa members. I believe young women come through sorority recruitment looking for leadership training, scholarship guidance, and friendship in pursuit of the good, the true, and the beautiful in life and sisterhood. The current national leadership sold out to a political agenda instead of standing strong with female-only sororities, and the same is true for women’s sports, locker rooms, bathrooms, prisons, and shelters. When I spoke up, my lifetime membership was disregarded and I got kicked out.”

Cheryl Tuck-Smith, former long-time member and contributor to Kappa Kappa Gamma and member of Independent Women’s Network:
“In 1870, when Kappa Kappa Gamma was founded and bylaws adopted, there was no confusion over the definition of a woman. It is our duty as women and alumnae to protect the privacy and safety of women, and not allow men pretending to be women to take over women’s spaces.”

Carol Nichols, retired banking executive, member of Independent Women’s Network, and Kappa Kappa Gamma member: 
“Women find their voice and thrive in all women environments. Save women’s spaces.”

Kara Dansky, Women’s Declaration International USA president:
“The U.S. Chapter of Women’s Declaration International is proud to stand in support of these brave female plaintiffs in demanding that their sorority remain single-sex. Article 8 of the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights reaffirms the need for the elimination of violence against women and girls. This includes the right of women and girls to have female-only spaces. Today, because of policies like KKG’s, any man seems to be able to enter a women-only space by claiming to have a “gender identity” that is different from his male sex. The Tenth Circuit should see this posturing for what it is and reverse the district court.”

Lauren Bone, Women’s Liberation Front legal director:
“WoLF opposes the misogynistic rebranding of ‘woman’ as a set of stereotypes or a feeling in a person’s head. The Tenth Circuit should allow the plaintiffs to proceed with their case at the district level.”

Independent Women’s Network (IWN), the grassroots activist arm of Independent Women, has been integral in ensuring local support for the case. Chapters from Colorado, Tennessee, Virginia, and Texas were present on the ground in Denver to support the plaintiffs and rally in support of women’s rights to privacy, safety, and single-sex association.

Interested parties that weighed in on the case in support of the plaintiffs-appellants seeking single-sex association include more than 450 Kappa alumnae, and national feminist groups Women’s Declaration International USA (WDI, USA) and Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF).

View final brief in Westenbroek v. Kappa Kappa Gamma, submitted by Independent Women’s Law Center, HERE.

Direct all Westenbroek et al. v. Kappa Kappa Gamma media inquiries to [email protected]


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Independent Women’s Law Center advocates for equal opportunity, individual liberty, and the continued legal relevance of biological sex.