Citing constitutional protections against inflicting “cruel and unusual punishments” on criminals, a panel of three judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that the State of Idaho must pay for the male-to-female gender reassignment surgery of an inmate sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy. In response, Republican Gov. Brad Little vowed to make sure taxpayer money is not diverted to the sex offender’s surgery, particularly because the treating physician and multiple mental health professionals maintain that it is not medically necessary.
The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution states that “[e]xcessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted” on criminals. That amendment, a three-judge panel ruled Friday, requires the State of Idaho to pay for the $20,000 to $30,0000 sex reassignment surgery for Adree Edmo, a biological male convicted of sexually abusing a 15-year-old at the age of 22 and who claims to identify as a female.
Edmo began serving time in a male prison in 2012. In 2017, Edmo sued the state, claiming the state’s refusal to pay for the controversial and costly surgery was “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Last December, Federal District Judge B. Lynn Winmill sided with Edmo, ruling that the state should fund the surgery, a ruling the state appealed. On Friday, the panel agreed with Winmill, concluding that prison officials were “deliberately indifferent to Edmo’s gender dysphoria, in violation of the Eighth Amendment,” as reported by Boise State Public Radio. Prison officials, the panel wrote, have not provided for what the judges say are Edmo’s “medical needs” due to the “extreme suffering” caused by gender dysphoria.
Edmo, who is due for release in early 2021, has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition in which a person identifies as the opposite of his or her biogical sex. NPR notes that Edmo reportedly twice attempted “self-castration.”
Boise State Public Radio quotes a senior attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who insists that “every major and mental health association” agrees that sex reassignment surgery is “medically necessary” in cases of severe gender dysphoria.
The state, which has 90 days to appeal the decision, has countered that Edmo’s sex reassignment surgery is not a medical necessity. The state’s Republican governor agrees.
In response to the 9th Circuit’s ruling Friday, Gov. Little made clear in an interview with BSPR that he intends to do what he can to block public funds from being diverted to meet Edmo’s demands. “We cannot divert critical public dollars away from the higher priorities of keeping the public safe and rehabilitating offenders,” said Little.
The governor also underscored that medical professionals who have worked with Edmo disagree with the panel’s conclusion that the surgery is necessary. “The hardworking taxpayers of Idaho should not be forced to pay for a convicted sex offender’s gender reassignment surgery when it is contrary to the medical opinions of the treating physician and multiple mental health professionals,” the governor said.
If the ruling stands, BSPR notes, the sex offender “will be the first transgender inmate in the nation to receive sex reassignment surgery through a court order,” a development that “could have a ripple effect in western states and potentially across the nation.”