The Department of Justice (DOJ) is suing the state of Utah, including the Utah Department of Corrections (UDOC), for allegedly discriminating against a transgender inmate who removed his own testicles after suffering from gender dysphoria. 

In Monday’s announcement, the DOJ claims the state violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating against the inmate on the basis of the individual’s gender dysphoria “by denying her equal access to healthcare services and failing to reasonably modify policies, practices, or procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination.” The transgender inmate was unnamed in the court documents.

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“People with gender dysphoria, including those held in jails and prisons, are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and are entitled to equal access to medical care just like anyone else with a disability,” assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement Monday. “Delays or refusals to provide medical treatment for people with gender dysphoria can cause irreparable harm, including debilitating distress, depression, attempts at self-treatment and even death by suicide. The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the rights of all people with disabilities in our country, including those who experience gender dysphoria — and those rights are not given up at the jailhouse door.”

The DOJ claims the UDOC “has also imposed unnecessary eligibility criteria for evaluation and treatment for gender dysphoria for incarcerated persons at UDOC that it does not require for other health conditions.”

The filing also says the UDOC denied all the inmate’s requests, including modifying pat searches, providing female makeup, clothing and other items in the commissary to match the prisoner’s gender identity. Additionally, the UDOC did not “individually assess her housing requests” to be transferred to a women’s prison, and denied requests for male-to-female hormone prescriptions, according to the DOJ. 

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California prison

In May 2023, the inmate “performed dangerous self-surgery and removed her own testicles, resulting in hospitalization and additional surgery,” the DOJ’s nine-page lawsuit states. 

Heritage Foundation legal fellow Sarah Marshall Perry told Fox News Digital on Tuesday that the DOJ “is relying on a single, first-of-its-kind federal court decision holding that ‘gender dysphoria’ — the distress that results from a person feeling that he or she is the wrong sex — is a disability that must be accommodated under the Americans with Disabilities Act, even though the precise language of the ADA makes clear that ‘gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments’ are not disabilities for purposes of federal civil rights law.”

“Until and unless another federal circuit finds correctly that a plain reading of the ADA excludes gender identity disorders and gender dysphoria, states — and their affiliated department of corrections — will find themselves at the losing end of demands for ‘gender-affirming care’ on the taxpayer dime,” she said. 

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Transgender pride flag

Last month, the DOJ’s investigation of the state’s penitentiary found officials had “unnecessarily delayed” the transgender inmate’s requests. While UDOC does not comment on pending litigation, corrections executive director Brian Redd said last month the state was “blindsided” by the DOJ’s investigation findings, and said “we fundamentally disagree with the DOJ on key issues, and are disappointed with their approach.”

The DOJ’s lawsuit comes as several states are moving to provide more access to sex-change surgical procedures and non-invasive prescriptions. While California became the first state in 2017 to grant these services to inmates in 2017, Colorado is also poised to become the first state in the country with segregated holding cells for transgender women in prison.

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