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Appeals court to hear case on gender reassignment surgery for convicted murderer

Saturday, March 2, 2013
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BOSTON — A federal appeals court will hear arguments in April in an appeal of a judge’s ruling granting a taxpayer-funded sex change for a Massachusetts transgender inmate.

Michelle Kosilek

The state is appealing a ruling by U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ordering prison officials to provide taxpayer-funded gender reassignment surgery for Michelle Kosilek, a transgender female inmate convicted of murder and who is serving a life sentence.

Wolf, who acknowledged that his previous ruling on the surgery was “unpopular and misunderstood,” ruled on Nov. 20 that he would suspend his order until an appeal of his ruling by the administration of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

On Thursday, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston scheduled the hearing for April 2.

Wolf ruled in September that the surgery is the “only adequate treatment” for Koslek’s gender-identity disorder.

The state says there are legitimate safety concerns of protecting her in prison if she has the surgery.

Kosilek first sued the Department of Corrections 12 years ago. After two years of litigation, Kosilek — in her first appearance before Wolf — won the right to receive hormone treatments, although at that time, Wolf stopped short of ordering the gender reassignment surgery.

Her lawsuit has become fodder for radio talk shows and Massachusetts lawmakers, who said the state should not be forced to pay for a convicted murderer’s sex-change operation – which can cost up to $20,000 – since many insurance companies reject the surgery as elective.

Kosilek was named Robert when convicted in the 1990 murder of wife Cheryl Kosilek.

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