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Mixed Messages: Supreme Court Denies Review of 'Ex-Gay' Therapy Ban, Trans Inmate's Surgery

Mixed Messages: Supreme Court Denies Review of 'Ex-Gay' Therapy Ban, Trans Inmate's Surgery

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The court's action lets New Jersey's ban on 'ex-gay' therapy stand, but ends a prisoner's hope for gender-affirming surgery.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear two cases relating to LGBT rights -- good news in one case, bad in the other.

The court announced today that it will not hear an appeal of New Jersey's ban on the use of "ex-gay" therapy by state-licensed practitioners on minors, the Washington Blade reports; the ban has been upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. But the high court also declined to hear a case seeking gender-affirming surgery for a transgender prisoner. The cases were part of a long list the Supreme Court turned down, without comment. This means there can be no further appeal in either case.

In the "ex-gay" therapy case, King v. Christie, Liberty Counsel, an antigay group, had challenged the ban signed into law by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in 2013. That the Supreme Court will not hear the case, letting the ban stand, "is just confirmation that the horrifying practice known as 'conversion therapy' is the kind of junk science that we can condemn to the history books," Garden State Equality executive director Andrea Bowen told the Blade. "Thanks to brave legislators like New Jersey's Tim Eustace, who introduced the bill, thanks to the attorneys who defended the law, and thanks to smart judges, precedent is set to protect minors from a discredited, brutal practice."

Similar bans have been put in place by legislators in California and the District of Columbia, and have been introduced in several other states. President Obama and his administration have endorsed such bans. Antigay organizations unsuccessfully challenged the California ban in court; the Supreme Court last summer declined to hear their appeals.

The transgender rights case, Kosilek v. O'Brien, sought to reverse the Massachusetts Department of Corrections' decision to deny gender-affirming surgery to Michelle Kosilek, who is in prison for killing her spouse. The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit had ruled the state had the right to withhold the procedure, overturning a district court's ruling that found Kosilek was entitled to the surgery deemed "medically necessary" by her doctors.

Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders represented Kosilek. "This is a terrible and inhumane result for Michelle," said a statement from Jennifer Levi, director of transgender rights at GLAD. "But it is just a matter of time before some prison somewhere is required to provide essential surgery, meeting the minimal constitutional obligations of adequate medical care for transgender people in prison."

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