State-funded sex change for inmate

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Will it happen in Virginia: a court ordered, state funded, sex change operation for a transgender inmate?

Today, a Federal judge ordered the Department of Corrections in Massachusetts to provide gender reassignment surgery to and inmate who is serving life in prison for murder.

Virginia has its own court battle with Ophelia Delonta, a transgender inmate whose case right now is in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Massachusetts judge's ruling is not binding on Virginia courts.  But the Federal judge is the first to write what's being called a 'detailed' and 'persuasive' opinion.

Attorneys who either represent Ophelia Delonta or filed court papers on her behalf say this is precedence setting.

Boston prison officials have been ordered to provide sex change surgery for Robert Kosilek, who now goes by the name Michelle.

Michelle Kosilek was born a man but gets hormone therapy and lives as a woman in an all-male Massachusetts' prison. The transgender inmate is serving a life sentence for killing his wife in 1990.

Kosilek first sued Massachusetts DOC 12 years ago for the right to a state funded sex change surgery.

Two years later, Federal judge Mark Wolf said the inmate is entitled to treatment for gender identity disorder but stopped short of ordering the operation.

Kosilek sued again and Tuesday the judge ordered corrections to provide the gender reassignment surgery.

The ruling gives hope to those fighting for the same type of ruling for Ophelia Delonta, a Virginia inmate whose case involving gender reassignment surgery is currently in appeals.

"The court in Massachusetts wrote an extremely thorough and persuasive opinion. We can only hope that the Court of Appeals in Richmond will look at that opinion and take it seriously and perhaps take some guidance from it," said Rebecca Glenberg of the ACLU.

Virginia inmate, Ophelia Delonta, tells us gender identification disorder causes her to self castrate and the surgery is the only way she will stop.

Ophelia's case was dismissed last year.

Court arguments will be heard in October. Those close to her case are optimistic and say Boston's ruling is significant in that judge recognized sex change surgery as a necessary treatment for Kosilek.

"She was, in fact, at risk of suicide if she did not receive the surgery and I think that was very significant to the judge that she had a serious medical need that it was the responsibility of the department of corrections to provide treatment.  I think Ophelia similarly suffers from a severe incarnation of gender disorder.  Hope the courts recognize that this is the only treatment for her as well." said Glenberg.

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