Ruling on Trans Inmate's Surgery Gets Bipartisan Rebuke

A federal judge ruled that the state must provide a transgender inmate with gender-reassignment surgery, a decision both Massachusetts Senate candidates oppose.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

September 12 2012 6:51 PM ET

Michelle Kosilek

A recent federal court ruling that a transgender inmate is entitled to state-funded gender-reassignment surgery has both of Massachusetts's current U.S. Senate candidates in agreement for once.

Michelle Kosilek is a transgender woman serving a life sentence without parole for killing her wife in 1990. Kosilek has twice sued the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, asserting that the prison is required to provide her with the medically necessary surgery, not just the hormone therapy she has been receiving. In August, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled in Kosilek's favor, saying gender-reassignment surgery is the only way to treat her "serious medical need." It is believed that this ruling is the first where a federal judge has ordered that a state cover the surgical transition of a transgender inmate.

Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican, called the ruling "an outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars."

Elizabeth Warren, Brown's Democratic challenger who hopes to win the seat formerly occupied by the late senator Edward Kennedy, told a Boston radio station, "I have to say, I don't think it's a good use of taxpayer dollars."

Warren, who has been widely praised as a progressive politician with strong convictions on women's rights, as an ally to the underprivileged, and generally as a liberal superstar, has angered some in the LGBT community with her comments.

Trans activist and blogger Jos Truitt penned an open letter to Warren on Feministing, asking the candidate to get educated on the medical necessity of gender-reassignment surgery for some trans people.

"I frankly don’t understand how a pro-choice politician can think voicing this sort of opinion is OK ever," writes Truitt. "And the only explanation I can find is ignorance or bigotry about trans people. It seems like you think Kosilek’s surgery is unecessary in some way — that it’s cosmetic is a typical uninformed take."

Adding his voice to the fray, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick announced Wednesday that his administration would "review" the case. It is currently unknown whether the Patrick administration will appeal the decision. 

Tags: Transgender

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