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Justice Department Files Statement of Interest in Lawsuit Concerning Treatment for Gender Dysphoria in Correctional Settings

January 9, 2024
Source: U.S. Justice Department

The Justice Department today filed a statement of interest in a lawsuit brought in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia challenging the denial of treatment sought for gender dysphoria in a correctional setting. The statement explains that gender dysphoria falls within the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)’s definition of “disability” and affirms that correctional institutions cannot deny medically appropriate care for people with gender dysphoria, no matter their particular circumstances, consistent with the Eighth Amendment.

“People with gender dysphoria should be able to seek the full protections of the American with Disabilities Act, just like other people with disabilities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We are committed to ensuring constitutional conditions inside our jails and prisons so that those detained inside these facilities, including people with gender dysphoria can live safely and receive needed medical care. The U.S. Constitution requires that people incarcerated in jails and prisons receive necessary medical care, treatment and services to address serious medical conditions.”

Doe, an incarcerated transgender woman, alleges that the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) has violated her rights under the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act and the U.S. Constitution by denying necessary medical care to treat her gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition that arises when a person experiences significant distress or impairment because of an incongruence between their gender identity and assigned sex. Left untreated, individuals with gender dysphoria can experience significant adverse mental health outcomes. Doe alleges that the GDC has denied her adequate medical treatment for her gender dysphoria, including gender-affirming surgery that has been recommended by four clinicians and consistent hormone therapy. Because of the inadequate care and exacerbation of her gender dysphoria, Doe has engaged in repeated self-harm, including attempts at suicide and self-castration. Doe seeks a preliminary injunction that would grant her access to medically necessary treatment for her gender dysphoria.

“The protections of the U.S. Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act do not stop at the doorsteps of our jails and prisons,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan for the Northern District of Georgia. “Our office remains committed to ensuring that all people with disabilities, including those with gender dysphoria, continue to receive access to such medically necessary treatments, even while they are in custody.”

The department’s statement of interest clarifies that gender dysphoria can be a covered disability under the ADA and does not fall within the ADA’s exclusion of gender identity disorders. The department’s statement also explains that prison officials violate the Eighth Amendment when they categorically refuse to provide medically necessary gender-affirming surgery to incarcerated individuals with gender dysphoria, no matter a person’s particular circumstances.

The Justice Department plays a central role in advancing the ADA’s goals of equal opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities. For more information on the ADA, please call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 (TTY 1-833-610-1264) or visit ada.gov.

Additional information about the Civil Rights Division’s work regarding correctional facilities is available on its website at justice.gov/crt/rights-persons-confined-jails-and-prisons.

For more information on the Civil Rights Division, please visit justice.gov/crt. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division’s work to uphold and protect the civil and constitutional rights of LGBTQI+ individuals is available online at justice.gov/crt/lgbtqi-working-group. Complaints about discriminatory practices may be reported to the Civil Rights Division through its internet reporting portal at civilrights.justice.gov.

More information: Doe v. Georgia Department of Corrections Statement of Interest (PDF, 249.75 KB)

News source: justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-files-statement-interest-lawsuit-concerning-treatment-gender-dysphoria

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