Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders submitted a brief today to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in the case Kosilek v. Spencer, supporting the right of an incarcerated transgender woman to receive medically necessary care to treat her severe gender identity disorder (GID).

On January 17, 2014, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Department of Corrections (DOC) cannot deny gender reassignment surgery to Michelle Kosilek.  That decision upheld an earlier Massachusetts US District Court ruling that Kosilek should receive the surgery.  The DOC requested and was granted en banc review, vacating the earlier decision and putting the matter before the entire 5-judge panel for rehearing.

Jennifer Levi, Director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project, said “The Department of Corrections has agreed that GID is serious medical condition requiring treatment; that Kosilek suffers from GID; that a majority of the experts who have been consulted support surgery as treatment for Kosilek; and that the Eighth Amendment requires the provision of adequate medical care for prisoners. So their continued opposition to providing this care is at best a mystery and at worst out-and-out discrimination.”

“The Eighth Amendment prohibits state officials from interfering with medical treatment for prisoners. Yet this is exactly what the Department of Corrections has done ever since its own doctors recommended sex reassignment surgery for Michelle Kosilek nine years ago. The law is clear that this violates Ms. Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care. We expect that Ms. Kosilek’s right to adequate medical care will be affirmed by the full court,” said attorney Joseph Sulman of the Law Office of Joseph Sulman, who is also representing Kosilek, along with his colleague David Brody.

Levi, together with Joseph Sulman and David Brody of the Law Office of Joseph Sulman, is representing Kosilek.

The earlier, district court decision, written by District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf found that the Department of Corrections engaged in a pattern of “pretense, pretext, and prevarication” in denying Kosilek treatment.

The hearing date for en banc review is May 8, 2014.