Another court victory for a transgender inmate.
Virginia inmate Ophelia De'lonta appears closer to getting a sex change - paid for by taxpayers.
The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Monday that De'lonta is entitled to a hearing, to determine whether the Virginia Department of Corrections violated her constitutional rights by not allowing her to be evaluated for the operation.
In a phone interview Monday, De'lonta said the unanimous appeals court ruling feels like being paroled.
"It's major," said De'lonta. "Finally, I can get what I need. That's just like making parole. Really. It's something that's very much overwhelming."
The appeals court ruling does not decide the merits of De'lonta's 8th Amendment violation claim, and it doesn't suggest that sex change surgery is the remedy.
It does say, the fact that Virginia D.O.C. is providing treatment for De'lonta's disorder already, doesn't foreclose the possibility that the medical services have become constitutionally deficient.
"As long as you are holding me here, you have to provide the treatment. Should happen that should happen," said De'lonta.
De'lonta could become the first in the nation to have state-funded sex change surgery to treat gender identity disorder and the compulsion to self castrate.
Rebecca Glenberg of the A.C.L.U. said:
"The court of appeals recognized that prison officials may not arbitrarily refuse to consider sex reassignment surgery. This is an important step forward for transgender inmates."
De'lonta's attorney, Victor Glasberg, said the court fairly viewed the facts and fairly applied the law. He said it remains to be seen if the state agrees or prefers to spend taxpayers' dollars fighting.
Glasberg says he has invited the state to settle the case.
Copyright 2013 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.