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State Must Grant Murder Convict A Sex Change Operation, Judge Rules

A federal judge in Boston today "ordered state prison officials to provide a taxpayer-funded sex-reassignment surgery to a transgender inmate serving life in prison" for murder, The Associated Press writes.

According to the Boston Globe, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mark Wolf ruled that the surgery is the only way to care for Michelle Kosilek's gender identity disorder and noted that the treatment "had been prescribed by Department of Correction doctors, and that the only justifications for denying the treatment were based on public opinion."

Wolf, who was nominated to his seat by President Reagan in 1985, "is believed to be the first federal judge to order prison officials to provide the surgery for a transgender inmate," the AP says.

The then-Robert Kosilek killed his wife in 1990 and was convicted of her murder three years later. Also in 1993, he legally changed his first name to Michelle. Kosilek "lives as a woman in an all-male prison," according to the AP.

A year ago, our colleagues at WBUR wrote about how the case had already "been making headlines for more than a decade." They reported that:

"Diagnosed with gender identity disorder (GID) by prison doctors, Kosilek sued the state corrections department for not providing her gender reassignment therapy. In 2002, she won, on the basis that the Eighth Amendment requires prisons to pay for all medical care deemed necessary. She's been receiving female hormone injections ever since. ...

"Pretty soon, though, Kosilek was back in court, claiming that the hormones weren't enough; she wants gender reassignment surgery. ...

"The case reverberated across the country. Inmates from Massachusetts to California started requesting hormone therapy and a lot of them got it."

As for what will happen if Kosilek does get the surgery, WBUR said that whether she is then transferred to a women's facility could be the subject of further litigation.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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