Transgender Law Center, in conjunction with pro bono co-counsel from the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, won an important victory in the case of Norsworthy v. Beard this week. We are representing Michelle Norsworthy, a transgender woman held in a California men’s prison. Michelle was denied gender-affirming surgery, even though her treating psychologist had repeatedly concluded that it was medically necessary to treat her gender dysphoria. She was also denied a legal name change because the name she would like to use is a traditionally feminine name. We argue that the prison system’s discriminatory actions violate fundamental constitutional guarantees, including the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the Equal Protection Clause.
In a recent ruling, the federal judge hearing the case rejected the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case. The judge held that the facts asserted in the complaint were sufficient to allege a violation of the Eighth Amendment based upon the denial of surgery, because the denial may have constituted “deliberate indifference” to her “serious medical needs.” The judge also held that discrimination against transgender people is a form of sex discrimination and thus that Michelle’s claims alleging discrimination based upon the denial of surgery and the denial of a legal name change are entitled to a heightened level of scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause.
The case will now proceed to the discovery phase.