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Appeals court upholds inmate's right to have taxpayer-funded sex change surgery
2 years ago

AFP Photo/ Brendan Smialowski

For the first time in US history, federal judges in the US state of Massachusetts have upheld a court ruling entitling a tax-payer funded sex-change operation for a transsexual prisoner convicted of murder.


“Having carefully considered the relevant law and the extensive factual record, we affirm the judgment of the district court,” a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled on Friday. The 2-1 ruling in favor of the original decision can still be appealed in the US Supreme Court.


The federal decision refers to the ruling of US District Judge Mark Wolf who in September 2012 directed that the state Department of Correction (DOC) ought to provide sex-reassignment surgery for Michelle Kosilek who is serving a life sentence for murder.


Wolf’s verdict found that the surgery was the only adequate treatment for Kosilek’s severe gender identity disorder, arguing that denying medical treatment would violate Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment right.


Courts nevertheless must not shrink from their obligation to ‘enforce the constitutional rights of all &lsquoersons,’ including &lsquorisoners.’ And receiving medically necessary treatment is one of those rights, even if that treatment strikes some as odd or unorthodox,” the appeals court said, as cited by

The appeals court also stated that Wolf was “well-placed to make the factual findings he made,” ruling that the DOC has violated Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment rights. “The court did not err in granting Kosilek the injunctive relief she sought,” the appeals court ruled.


Robert Kosilek, aka Michelle Kosilek, now 64, was found guilty of strangling his wife in Mansfield, Massachussets in 1990. Kosilek legally changed her first name to Michelle while awaiting trial. The convict has been incarcerated in a male prison in Norfolk where she is referred to as a woman not as a man.

In 2000, Kosilek filed a law suit against the DOC, claiming violation of her Eighth Amendment rights that prohibit the federal government from imposing, among other things, cruel and unusual punishments, including torture. After winning the case in 2002, Kosilek obtained access to hormone replacement therapy and psychotherapy to treat her condition.

In 2006, Kosilek again sued the DOC for refusal to provide sex reassignment surgery which her defense argued constituted "cruel and unusual punishment" under the Eighth Amendment. After Judge Wolf’s ruling of 2012 for the DOC to provide Kosilek with the surgery, the state authorities appealed the decision.

The LGBT community has welcomed the decision. In a civilized society “there is a baseline of care that has to be provided to all prisoners, including prisoners who are transgender,” Jenifer Levi, director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project told

Despite winning the case, it still remains unclear who and when will operate on the inmate, as no surgeon in Massachusetts is willing to perform such operation on Kosilek. One unidentified out-of-state doctor has stepped forward, according to the DOC, but the surgeon does not have the approval of the state Board of Registration in Medicine to perform sex-change operations.

2 years ago

You know, I do not approve of this; incarcerated people should relinquish their rights to anything but to get exercise, to be fed, clothed (out of necessity), and to have showers and access to those things that are necessary for hygiene and daily life; medical treatment that is warranted, etc.  Anything beyond that should not only be discouraged, but should not be paid for by the taxpayer.

The humorous side of this is that it is going to put her as the other prisoners are going to make her life heck.  What will happen if she is taken advantage of "sexually".  Will she then sue for damages?

There is a point where "gay rights" advocates have gone too far and this is one of them.

2 years ago

Bradley (Chelsea) Manning wants almost the same.  He's just going to have to wait out his 35 year sentence & pay for his hormone replacement treatment himself and have the ability to dress like a woman.  He plans on suing the US Army.  If he were to be successful, I think would be a sign of the apocalypse.  

I agree that in both the Massachusetts case & Manning's, the taxpayers shouldn't be paying for any of it.  It's not a matter of some thinking it odd or unorthodox as Judge Wolf stated, it's that taxpayer shouldn't have to foot the bill.  The US Army will allow Manning to go by the name Chelsea & that is all.  I don't see where Kosilek's 8th amendment rights are being violated.

2 years ago

Pure and simple this is no one's expense but the individuals.  We are not responsible to give everyone whatever they want.  I want a new home so who should pay for that?

This would be an extension of entitlement programs that over reach not only monotarily, but all good sense of justice.  Let the gay community raise funds and donate for them, but leave the rest of us out of this.

2 years ago

I have no time for Gay's be it male or female, if they want a sex change, fair enough, pay for themselves through their own funds, and not expect the Taxpayer to fund tthe operation,


if they can't afford the operation, Tuff, they will have do without. end of the matter.

2 years ago

Totally agree.    Enough is enough.  

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