Transgender inmates have a right to hormone therapy, federal judge says
 

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posted Friday, April 9, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 15

Transgender inmates have a right to hormone therapy, federal judge says
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A federal judge ruled on April 1 that a Wisconsin law prohibiting hormone therapy for Transgender prison inmates was unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert said the law violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment because it 'results in the denial of hormone therapy without regard for the individual medical needs of inmates and the medical judgment of their health-care providers.'

He added that "there is no rational basis" for the law, which therefore also violates the equal protection rights of Transgender prisoners.

Clevert had previously issued a temporary order preventing prison officials from ending treatments for inmates already receiving hormones, pending his decision in the case.

The law at issue was passed in 2006 with bipartisan support after an inmate who had been receiving hormone therapy filed a suit seeking to force the state prison system to pay for his sex reassignment.

The law prohibits tax dollars from being used for inmates' hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery.

A group of female-identified prisoners challenged the constitutionality of the law with the help of ACLU Wisconsin and Lambda Legal. They said they required hormones to treat their gender identity disorder, and not having them would lead to severe health problems.

"It's a victory for these inmates who have a condition that is misunderstood and vilified for political purposes that can be very serious," ACLU attorney Larry Dupuis, who represented the plaintiffs, said after the decision. "To take away a whole class of treatment just because it's politically disfavored is not constitutional."

Before the law went into effect, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections sometimes approved hormone therapy for inmates diagnosed with gender identity disorder. Dupuis estimated that only a small number of inmates receive the therapy at any given time.

Lawmakers who wrote the measure were outraged by the decision.

"This ruling puts a higher priority on helping inmate 'Tommy' become 'Tammy' than protecting the pocketbooks of law-abiding citizens," said Republican Rep. Scott Suder. "This is a travesty of justice that must be overturned."

Republican Sen. Ted Kanavas, one of the measure's sponsors, called the ruling absurd.

"This is another prime example of a liberal judge, far removed from the mainstream, overturning the will of the people," he said in a statement.

Wisconsin legislators urged State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to appeal. Van Hollen spokesman Bill Cosh said lawyers were reviewing the decision and considering their options.



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