A new Wisconsin
law banning the use of state tax money for prisoner
sex-change procedures won't stop four male inmates from
getting state-paid hormone treatments until at least August.
The law took effect last week, but the American
Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal filed suit in
U.S. district court in Milwaukee on behalf of the
four, challenging the statute as unconstitutional. The law
bars the state department of correction from using tax
dollars for hormone therapy or gender-reassignment
surgery to treat prisoners for a condition known
as gender identity disorder.
The four inmates claim that the termination of
treatments would be cruel and unusual punishment and
would violate their right to equal protection under
law. "The legislature is substituting its judgment for
medical judgment, which is causing serious harm to our
clients," said Cole Thaler, a lawyer for three of the inmates.
Republican state representative Mark Gundrum,
one of the authors of the law, predicted the
law would withstand the challenge. "It's
ridiculous to ask the taxpayers to pay for this," he said.
A preliminary injunction issued last week by
Judge Charles Clevert Jr. prevents the state from
stopping the hormone treatments at least until he
holds a hearing on the matter, scheduled for August 24.
People with gender identity disorder have a
strong and persistent discomfort with their birth
gender and wish to live as the other. According to the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders, those with the relatively rare disorder often
have trouble functioning in society and suffer severe
depression, in some cases leading to suicide.
The legal fight over treatment started in 2003,
when inmate Scott Konitzer filed a lawsuit against the
department of corrections. He is serving 123 years in
prison for multiple armed robberies and stabbing an
inmate. Konitzer, now known as Donna Dawn Konitzer, has been
receiving hormone therapy as treatment for gender
identity disorder since 1999. He was seeking
gender-reassignment surgery, which the state has never
permitted and can cost $10,000 to $20,000.
In reaction to his lawsuit, legislators passed
the Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act, which was
enacted January 6 and was set to take effect January
25. On January 24, three more inmates filed suit. The four
are the only Wisconsin prisoners getting hormone
therapy, which costs from $675 to $1,600 a year. (AP)
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