On December 16, 2014, the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 3-2 “en banc” decision reversing two prior decisions that had held that Michelle Kosilek, a transgender woman incarcerated in state prison in Massachusetts, should receive surgery to treat her severe gender dysphoria.
Statement from Transgender Law Center Legal Director Ilona Turner:
“This latest decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in the Kosilek case is incredibly disappointing. As the dissents correctly point out, the majority decision got it wrong as a matter of law. Categorically denying any incarcerated person access to critical medical treatment is inhumane and violates our Constitution. It is well established that surgeries can be medically necessary and even life saving for many transgender people. The state should not be able to deny someone that essential treatment just because of fears that it may be politically unpopular.”
Transgender Law Center is currently representing two transgender women, Michelle Norsworthy and Shiloh Quine , who are incarcerated in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Both cases argue that CDCR’s policies with respect to transgender women – including policies against providing gender-confirming surgeries, gender-confirming name changes, and clothing and other items restricted to inmates in women’s facilities – violate the Eighth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection. The law firm of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP is pro bono co-counsel in both cases.