Convicted Bank Robber Can Sue Prison To Pay For Sex-Change Surgery

transgender prisoner VAOphelia Azriel De’lonta

Photo: AP/Steve Helber

A transgender prisoner in Virginia who’s suing authorities to pay for her sex-change surgery will probably have her day in court, Reuters reports.The state’s federal appeals court reinstated the lawsuit brought by Ophelia Azriel De’lonta, who says the state’s refusal to pay for the surgery was cruel and unusual punishment barred by the Eighth Amendment.

De’lonta, born Michael Stokes, claims she has a constant urge to castrate herself and needs to have the surgery to avoid self-mutilation, according to Reuters.

As both Reuters and The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog point out, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals did not order the state of Virginia to pay for De’lonta’s surgery. The court only said she can fight her case in district court based on the Eighth Amendment.

The Virginia court’s still ruling signals a historic change. It’s the second case in six months where a court recognised that sex-change surgery could be medically necessary for transgender inmates.

In September, a federal judge in Boston made history by ordering the state of Massachusetts to pay for gender-reassignment surgery for inmate and convicted murderer Michelle Kosilek.

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