The U.S. Supreme Court recently let stand a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision rejecting a prison inmate’s argument that being denied a “sex reassignment” surgery amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“A state does not inflict cruel and unusual punishment by declining to provide sex reassignment surgery to a transgender inmate,” the 5th Circuit ruled in March in the case of Scott Gibson, who calls himself “Vanessa.” Gibson, originally convicted in Texas of aggravated robbery, was later charged and convicted for aggravated assault, possession of a deadly weapon, and murder while in prison.
Gibson, 41, has suffered from gender dysphoria since the age of 15 and threatened to castrate himself if the surgery was not provided. He then sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice when his demands were rejected. He lost at the district court level, then at the 5th Circuit, and now the Supreme Court has refused to hear the case, ending Gibson’s legal quest.
Texas did, however, provide Gibson with counseling and hormone treatments that are typically prescribed for his condition. It was not indifferent to his medical claims, which might have been cause for an 8th Amendment violation. The 5th Circuit pointed out that the only other federal court in the nation to have ruled on this issue held that denial of sex reassignment surgery does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
Prisons must provide “essential medical care,” to inmates, the 5th Circuit observed, “but that does not mean prisons must provide whatever care an inmate wants.” Rather, the 8th Amendment “proscribes only medical care so unconscionable as to fall below society’s minimum standards of decency.” And sex reassignment surgery “is a matter of significant disagreement within the medical community” as treatment for gender dysphoria.
This case is important because of its impact on the unrelenting effort by transgender activists to force government, employers and insurance companies to pay for, and hospitals and medical personnel to perform such surgeries without objection. The Equality Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives back in May, would enshrine such a right in federal law if passed by the Senate and signed into law.
This ruling is also a welcome reminder that transgender activist demands haven’t won the day yet. Expensive surgeries at the taxpayers’ expense to meet questionable goals that are hotly disputed by the medical establishment are not the way to indulge such demands. Thank goodness the courts have recognized this.
More resources and articles: