Federal Court Hears Arguments in Case Defending Transgender People’s Right to Access Medical Treatment in Prison

For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Robyn Shepherd, ACLU, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org
Larry Dupuis, ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, (414) 272-4032, ext. 12; ldupuis@aclu-wi.org
Erik Roldan, Lambda Legal, (312) 663-4413 or (312) 545-8140; eroldan@lambdalegal.org

Federal Court Hears Arguments in Case Defending Transgender People’s Right to Access Medical Treatment in Prison

ACLU and Lambda Legal Argue That Doctors, Not Legislators, Should Determine Medical Treatment

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments
today in a case defending the right of transgender people to receive
medical care while they are incarcerated. Under Wisconsin law, prison
doctors are prohibited from prescribing hormone treatment to transgender
inmates. The law is being challenged by the American Civil Liberties
Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and Lambda Legal. 

"The district
court correctly struck down a discriminatory law that denied transgender
people, and no one else, crucial care for a serious medical condition,"
said John Knight, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transgender Project. "We hope that the court of appeals
affirms this ruling and recognizes that medical treatment decisions must
be based on medical, rather than political, justifications."

In 2005, the state
of Wisconsin passed a law that barred prison doctors from providing
transgender inmates medically necessary hormone therapy or sex
reassignment surgery while in state custody. The ACLU, the ACLU of
Wisconsin and Lambda Legal sued the state on behalf of transgender
inmates, some of whom had been receiving hormone treatment in Wisconsin
prisons for years. An injunction was granted to continue hormone
treatment until a ruling was made. In April 2010, after a full trial, a
federal district court struck down the so-called "Inmate Sex Change
Prevention Act."

"The trial court
ruled that it is cruel and unusual punishment to deny medical treatment
to transgender prisoners for a serious medical need," said Dru
Levasseur, Lambda Legal's Transgender Rights attorney. "We hope this
court will affirm the principle that is so important to all of us -
doctors, and not legislators, should decide what medical treatment is
critical for their patients."

The clients in
this case were represented by Knight of the ACLU LGBT Project, Levasseur
of Lambda Legal, Larry Dupuis of the ACLU of Wisconsin, Erik Guenther
of Hurley, Burish & Stanton and Jonathan Baum and Alyx Pattison of
the Chicago firm Katten Muchin Rosenman. 

More information on this case, Fields v. Smith, can be found on the American Civil Liberties Union case profile page at: www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights_hiv-aids/sundstrom-v-frank-case-profile or on Lambda Legal's case page at: www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/fields-v-smith.html


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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