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Press Release

Transgender Law

Federal Appeals Court Rules Idaho Department of Corrections Must Provide Gender Confirmation Surgery to Transgender Woman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 23, 2019

Contacts: 

Lori Rifkin, Rifkin Law Office lrifkin@rifkinlaw.com / (510) 414-4132

Shannon Minter, NCLR sminter@nclrights.org / (415) 624-6071

“I am relieved and grateful the court recognized my right to necessary medical treatment, and that I will get the surgery I need.”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Today, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) must provide medically necessary gender confirmation surgery to Adree Edmo, a transgender woman. The Court of Appeals affirmed a December 2018 decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho ordering IDOC to provide Ms. Edmo this life-saving treatment for severe gender dysphoria. IDOC had appealed the District Court’s order to the 9th Circuit.

In an 85-page opinion, the unanimous panel of the Ninth Circuit concluded that Ms. Edmo “has a serious medical need, that the appropriate medical treatment is GCS [gender confirmation surgery], and that prison authorities have not provided that treatment despite full knowledge of Edmo’s ongoing and extreme suffering and medical needs.” The Court held that “the responsible prison authorities have been deliberately indifferent” to Ms. Edmo’s gender dysphoria in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.”

“I am relieved and grateful the court recognized my right to necessary medical treatment, and that I will get the surgery I need. I hope my case helps the State of Idaho understand that they can’t deny medical care to transgender people,” said plaintiff Adree Edmo.

Ms. Edmo filed suit in 2017 after the prison refused to provide her with surgery. Her gender dysphoria is so severe that she has attempted to self-castrate twice while incarcerated.

“Today’s ruling affirms that state officials cannot pick and choose which serious medical conditions they will treat. Intentionally depriving someone of medically necessary care amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, regardless of gender identity,” said Lori Rifkin, lead attorney for Ms. Edmo.

“One of the foundational principles of our Constitution is that the State cannot subject people in its custody to cruel and unusual punishment, including by failing to treat serious medical conditions,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Senior Staff Attorney Amy Whelan. “This ruling is in line not only with long-standing medical evidence, but also with legal rulings across the country that it is dangerous and unconstitutional to deny transgender people access to medically necessary care in prison.”

“Because the vast majority of people in prison will eventually return to their communities, everyone should care about this issue,” said Craig Durham of Ferguson Durham, PLLC. “When prisons and jails ignore the medical consensus about care, they put patients’ lives at risk and waste taxpayer funds defending those unlawful actions.”

IDOC has denied Ms. Edmo surgery for nearly five years despite Ms. Edmo’s clear and urgent need for it. Citing the “nature and urgency of the relief at issue,” the Ninth Circuit “urge[d] the State to move forward” expeditiously to provide Ms. Edmo surgery because of the gravity of “the facts of this case.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) represents plaintiff Adree Edmo together with Rifkin Law Office, Hadsell Stormer and Renick LLP, and Ferguson Durham, PLLC.

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The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) was the first national LGBTQ legal organization founded by women and brings a fierce, longstanding commitment to racial and economic justice and our community’s most vulnerable. Since 1977, we have been at the forefront of advancing the civil and human rights of LGBTQ people and their families through impact litigation, public policy, and public education. Decades ago, NCLR launched the first LGBTQ Immigration Project, Transgender Rights Project, Youth Project, Elder Law Project, and began working to end conversion therapy through what is now our Born Perfect campaign. www.nclrights.org

 Rifkin Law Office is a civil rights law firm based in Oakland, California. 

 Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP is a leading civil rights law firm with offices in Northern and Southern California that was founded in 1991.

Ferguson Durham, PLLC is a boutique civil and criminal litigation firm based in Boise, Idaho that focuses on civil rights, discrimination, and criminal law. With over 50 years of combined litigation experience, the partners serve their clients with a wealth of experience at the local, state, and federal levels.

 

Click here to read the Ninth Circuit’s August 23, 2019 order

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