Idaho must pay for an inmate’s gender reassignment surgery, a federal court ruled on Aug. 23.
Mason Dean Edmo, 31, was convicted of sexually abusing a child under 16 years old, according to jail records. He is slated to remain in prison until July 2021.
Edmo, who now goes by the name Adree and says he is a woman, wants to get surgery that will remove his male anatomy in his effort to transition into a female. Because Edmo is a male, he has been held in a men’s prison.
U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmell said in a December 2018 ruling (pdf) that the Idaho Department of Correction and Corizon’s not wanting to fund the surgery for Edmo put her at risk of harm.
“For more than forty years, the Supreme Court has consistently held that consciously ignoring a prisoner’s serious medical needs amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment,” the judge wrote in a ruling.
“Plaintiff Adree Edmo alleges that prison authorities violated her Eighth Amendment rights by refusing to provide her with gender confirmation surgery. The Court agrees.”
He claimed that the surgery was “considered medically necessary under generally accepted standards of care,” citing the ruling by a department psychiatrist and psychologist that Edmo has gender dysphoria, a medical condition where a person thinks they’re the other gender and that the judge wrote “is so severe that it impairs the individual’s ability to function.”
Until last year, claiming to be transgender was classified as a mental illness by the World Health Organization. It is still widely considered to be a mental illness and is listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (“DSM-5”) as gender dysphoria .
BREAKING: The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday agreed with a federal judge in Idaho that the state’s denying the surgery for Adree Edmo amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. #IDleg #IDpol https://t.co/w8yussoTnO
— Idaho Statesman (@IdahoStatesman) August 23, 2019
Medical staff already provided Edmo with hormone therapy but the judge said the department must fund and arrange the reassignment surgery, saying Edmo’s attempts at self-castration indicated how much she needed the procedure. If Edmo receives the surgery, he will be the first inmate in the nation to get it through a court order.
The case was appealed and a ruling (pdf) by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was issued on Aug. 23.
The panel agreed with Winmill that the “responsible prison officials were deliberately indifferent to Edmo’s gender dysphoria, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”
It said Winmill’s findings were “logical and well-supported,” saying that “both sides and their medical experts agree: Edmo suffers from gender dysphoria, a serious medical condition.”
It said the district court found that the plaintiff’s medical experts “testified persuasively that [the surgery] was medically necessary, whereas testimony from the State’s medical experts deserved little weight. In contrast to Edmo’s experts, the State’s witnesses lacked relevant experience, could not explain their deviations from generally accepted guidelines, and testified illogically and inconsistently in important ways.”
“We reject the State’s portrait of a reasoned disagreement between qualified medical professionals,” the court argued.
The ruling was issued by Circuit Court Judges Robert Lasnik, Ronald Gould, and M. Margaret McKeown—all appointees of Democratic President Bill Clinton.
The Idaho Department of Corrections didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Family Policy Alliance was among those opposing the change. In a January statement in support of Gov. Brad Little’s appeal of the 2018 ruling, the group’s director, John Paulton, stated: “We’re glad Governor Little agrees that while it’s important for all inmates to receive compassionate care, such as mental healthcare to help with gender dysphoria, it is unconscionable that Idaho taxpayers should be forced to pay for a sex-change operation for this inmate.”
The alliance didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
— Betsy Z. Russell (@BetsyZRussell) August 23, 2019
Gov. Little said in a statement that he will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
“The court’s decision is extremely disappointing. 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. I intend to appeal this decision to the U.S Supreme Court. We cannot divert critical public dollars away from the higher priorities of keeping the public safe and rehabilitating offenders,” he said.
Brady Summers, the minor who Edmo abused, told Local News 8 in December that Edmo did not show feminine characteristics during their interactions.
“Never once indicated anything of gender dysphoria or sexual indifference,” he said. “He was a predator. He, on several occasions, had his way with me. It was brutal.”
Summar said he doesn’t think the state should have to pay for the surgery. He also described some violence that happened.
“He would beat me on a constant basis,” Summers added. “I had to keep my head low. I had to be careful what I said, careful what I did. And the final straw of me escaping that was him beating me with a frying pan.”