Sorority Sisters Must Use Their Names in Trans Person Lawsuit Against National Sorority
The seven "Jane Does" at the University of Wyoming who sued their national sorority's leadership for being forced to admit a transgender woman as a member must use their real names in the litigation, according to a federal court ruling Thursday.
The plaintiffs also filed the lawsuit identifying themselves as Jane Does I-VII against the transgender woman "Terry Smith," a pseudonym, because Smith has done little to transition and has exhibited prurient interests in the women such as staring at them when they go to the bathroom.
The Jane Does also claimed in a subsequent court motion that they should remain anonymous because they "already faced threats, harassment, and safety concerns" over a "social media maelstrom" over scrutiny about transgender rights.
They don't deserve anonymity, U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson wrote in his order Thursday.
"The bottom line is this," Johnson wrote.
"Lawsuits are public events, and the public, especially here, has an important interest in access to legal proceedings. Plaintiffs may not levy serious accusations without standing behind them. Our system of dispute resolution does not allow Plaintiffs to cower behind an anonymity shield, especially one that is so rarely bestowed in this District or Circuit. Defendants do not have the option of proceeding pseudonymously. Defendant Smith, for example, stands publicly accused of concerning misconduct. Plaintiffs must so too endure the scrutiny that accompanies lawsuits."
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs want the court to order:
- "Men who identify as women" are ineligible to be members of Kappa Kappa Gamma.
- The national organization violated their obligation to the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.
- The defendants violated their campus housing contract.
Regarding anonymity, Johnson wrote that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires the naming of parties with certain "exceptional cases":
- '"'Cases involving matters of a highly sensitive and personal nature.'"'
- Cases involving a '"'real danger of physical harm.'"
- "'Where the injury litigated agains would be incurred as a result of the disclosure of the plaintiff's identity.'"
The Jane Does do not meet these circumstances, Johnson wrote.
Pseudonymous lawsuits have been permitted in highly sensitive and personal cases involving birth control, abortion, homosexuality or the welfare rights of illegitimate children, he wrote.
The Jane Does names are not highly sensitive or personal, and the women plaintiffs are adults.
"Plaintiffs privacy interests in their sorority house do not outweigh the public's legitimate interest in knowing the parties involved," Johnson wrote.
The Jane Does haven't met a standard that naming themselves will lead to threats, harassment and safety risks, he wrote.
One protester did show up at their sorority house, but he was friendly to their cause, Johnson wrote.
In conclusion, he wrote, "Plaintiffs have also offered no support that would justify elevating their collective privacy above the public's significant interest in open legal proceedings."