Supreme Court Wont’t Delay Trans Inmate’s Surgery
Idaho did not get stay it sought, but petition for review on the merits still pending
BY PAUL SCHINDLER
The United States Supreme Court, in a
brief written order on May 21, denied
a petition from the State of Idaho to
delay gender confi rmation surgery
for Adree Edmo, a transgender prison inmate.
The US District Court in Idaho in 2018 ruled
that the Idaho Department of Corrections must
provide the treatment for Edmo’s gender dysphoria.
That ruling was upheld in August 2019 by a
three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals. In February of this year, the Ninth Circuit
announced it would not grant rehearing of
that appellate ruling by an en banc panel of 11
members of the circuit’s bench. The 2019 threejudge
ruling found that denying Edmo her surgery
constituted “cruel and unusual punishment”
prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.
The Supreme Court’s action, in which Justices
Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were
the only two who indicated they would have
granted Idaho the stay it sought, clears the way
for Edmo to receive treatment.
However, separately, Idaho has a petition before
the high court seeking review of the Ninth
Circuit ruling, and if the court grants that petition
the appellate decision would be automatically
stayed pending the Supreme Court’s disposition
of the case. It is unknown when the high
court will decide on the petition for review.
The Ninth Circuit ruling on Edmo contradicts
rulings over the past several years by the
First, Fifth, and 10th Circuits, all of which the
Supreme Court declined to review, so the high
court might yet decide to take the Idaho case to
address the split among circuit courts .
That contingency did not keep attorneys for
Edmo, including the National Center for Lesbian
Rights, from claiming a victory in the case.
“The Court’s denial of the stay clears the way
for Adree Edmo to get medically necessary surgery
that she has needed for years,” said Amy
Whelan, senior staff attorney at NCLR. “The
lower courts found, based on extensive evidence
and proof, that the Idaho Department of Corrections
and Corizon Health the department’s
healthcare provider are violating Ms. Edmo’s
constitutional rights by withholding this critical
medical care. Today’s decision means that
the State can no longer delay in providing care
that is essential.”
It is signifi cant that when the full Ninth Circuit
declined to rehear the Edmo case earlier
this year, nine of the 29 active judges on the circuit
bench dissented in three separate opinions.
In essence, the dissenters agreed with other federal
circuit judges elsewhere in the country that
gender confi rmation surgery remains a novel
and controversial procedure within the medical
community — arguing that the conclusions of
the prison doctors treating Edmo should not be
second-guessed by judges.
Transgender rights advocatees have strenuously
disagreed and been successful in recent
litigation seeking such coverage under state
employee health care programs, Medicaid, and
private insurance policies challenged under
Obamacare’s anti-discrimination provisions.
Numerous federal and state judges have agreed
that such procedures are now part of accepted
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