News (USA)

Transgender inmate asks U.S. Supreme Court to hear sex-change case

BOSTON — Lawyers for a transgender inmate convicted of murder asked the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to overturn a ruling denying her request for sex-reassignment surgery.

Michelle Kosilek
Michelle Kosilek

A federal judge ordered the Massachusetts Department of Correction to grant the surgery to Michelle Kosilek in 2012, finding that it was the “only adequate treatment” for Kosilek’s severe gender dysphoria, also known as gender-identity disorder. That ruling was overturned in December by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lawyers with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders told The Associated Press they asked the Supreme Court to grant a hearing or to reverse the ruling by the appeals court. They argue that the appeals court did not find “clear error” in the judge’s ruling granting the surgery and therefore had no legal basis to overturn it.

Kosilek is serving a life sentence for killing spouse Cheryl McCaul in 1990.

Now 65, Kosilek has fought to get the surgery for two decades. In 2002, Judge Mark Wolf found that the treatment Kosilek was receiving in prison was inadequate, but stopped short of ordering the surgery, finding that the Department of Correction had not violated her Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. After that, prison officials began to provide hormone treatments, electrolysis to remove facial hair, female clothing and personal items.

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In 2005, Kosilek sued the Department of Correction again, arguing that the surgery was a medical necessity.

In 2012, Wolf became the first judge in the country to order sex-reassignment surgery as a remedy for an inmate’s gender-identity disorder. Courts in other states have ordered hormone treatments, psychotherapy and other treatments, but not surgery.

Wolf found that the Department of Correction had violated the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment by providing inadequate medical care to Kosilek.

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