Federal appeals court overturns inmate sex change order

Federal appeals court overturns inmate sex change order

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] on Tuesday overturned [opinion, PDF] a lower court ruling that would have granted inmate Michelle Kosilek taxpayer-funded sex-change surgery. The 3-2 decision overruled a 2012 decision [JURIST report] by Judge Mark Wolf of the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts [official website]. Michelle Kosilek, born Robert, is serving a life sentence for the 1990 murder of her wife Cheryl McCall. Identifying as a female, Kosilek claims that denying her the surgery violates her Eighth Amendment [text] right to protection against cruel and unusual punishment. In overruling the decision, which had been previously upheld in January by a three-judge panel of the First Circuit, Judge Juan Torruella wrote in the majority opinion, “[a]fter carefully considering the community standard of medical care, the adequacy of the provided treatment, and the valid security concerns articulated by the [Department of Corrections], we conclude that the district court erred and that the care provided to Kosilek by the DOC does not violate the Eighth Amendment.” Rather than surgery, prisons typically provide care including hormone treatment and therapy as well as providing female clothing.

The rights and identity of transgender individuals is a topic of legal debate around the world. In August the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that a transgender man, who was legally married to a woman, may pursue a divorce [JURIST report] within the Arizona court system. In July Italy’s Constitutional court ruled that an Italian law that annuls a marriage once a partner undergoes a sex change operation is against the national interest [JURIST report] because the couple may desire to stay together. In June a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio mandated the permanent reinstatement of hormone treatments [JURIST report] for a transgender Ohio prison inmate who complained about losing her breast tissue, growing facial hair, and suffering other related symptoms after treatments were stopped. In April the Supreme Court of India issued a ruling recognizing the country’s large transgender population as a legal third gender [JURIST report]. In so ruling the court ordered that the government ensure that transgender people are not discriminated against and are eligible for government jobs and education in the same way as it does with other minority groups. It also ordered that the government take steps to promote awareness and to ensure that they are provided with proper medical treatment and public facilities. In February Amnesty International [advocacy website] asserted that European countries are violating human rights [JURIST report] of people trying to change their legal gender and discriminating against transgender individuals in a report [text, PDF] entitled “The State Decides Who I Am.”