April 27, 2015 at 3:03 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Judge won’t stay order granting gender reassignment to inmate

same-sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

A judge won’t stay his order granting gender reassignment surgery to a trans inmate.

A federal judge on Monday denied a request from California Attorney General Kamala Harris to place a hold on an order requiring the Golden State to offer gender reassignment surgery to a transgender inmate convicted of second-degree murder.

In an eight-page decision, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar, an Obama appointee, says the state demonstrated it may suffer irreparable injury if the denial of a stay deprives officials of appellate review, but ultimately decides in favor of Michelle Norsworthy, a trans women who’s being held at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, Calif.

“[T]he Court concludes that Norsworthy has established that she is likely to prevail on the merits of her deliberate indifference claim, and that she is suffering from irreparable injury as a result of the deprivation of her Eighth Amendment rights,” Tigar said. “Consequently, the balance of hardships tips heavily in her favor.”

Earlier this month, Tigar issued a preliminary injunction ordering California to grant Norsworthy gender reassignment surgery on the basis that denying her the procedure constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

But California Attorney General Kamala Harris, acting on behalf of the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, filed notice that she intends to appeal the order to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Harris also sought a stay, among other reasons, on the basis that the state will suffer irreparable harm without one because granting Norsworthy the procedure would make any potential appeal moot.

Representing Norsworthy in her lawsuit is the Transgender Law Center and the global law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, said the judge made the right decision by denying a stay on his ruling.

“We are glad Judge Tigar recognized the urgency for Michelle in receiving the care that all the evidence shows is critical for her health,” Hayashi said. “The state provides essential medical care to all people being held in prison, and everyone – transgender or not – should find it troubling that the state is trying to take that away from Michelle just because of who she is.”

It remains to be seen whether the stay request will be politically harmful for Harris, who has a reputation for being a champion of LGBT rights, as she seeks the Democratic nomination to become the next U.S. senator for California in the 2016 election.

A Harris spokesperson deferred comment to the governor’s office and the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation.

Terry Thornton, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, said the state is reviewing the order and intends to file another stay request with the Ninth Circuit pending appeal.

CORRECTION: An initial version of this posting incorrectly spelled the name of Terry Thornton. The Blade regrets the error.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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