Court Rules Transgender People Entitled to Medical Care in Prison

A federal court in Wisconsin ruled on March 31 that a law that a law denying medical care to transgender people in prison was unconstitutional.  We congratulate our friends at the ACLU and Lambda Legal on this important victory.

Following on the heels of the U.S. Tax Court's decision in In re Rhiannon O’Donnabhain, the decision confirms that transgender health care cannot be treated differently than any other type of health care.  "Transgender health care is health care, plain and simple," said TLDEF executive director Michael Silverman.  "The court's decision stands for the core proposition that the government must treat all of its citizens equally, and that refusing transgender prisoners necessary medical care is cruel and unconstitutional."

Wisconsin had passed a law barring prison doctors from prescribing hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery to transgender people in state custody.  The legal challenge was brought on behalf of transgender prisoners, some of whom had been receiving hormones in Wisconsin prisons for years before this law took effect. The lawsuit charged that Wisconsin was violating the Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and against cruel and unusual punishment.

The court ruled that the ban on medical care was unconstitutional on both counts.  Wisconsin was the only state with a law denying transgender people access to medical care while in state custody.