California officials asked an appellate court on Monday to intervene to stay a lower court's order that the state immediately provide a transgender prison inmate with sex reassignment surgery.
State officials said they filed a request for a stay with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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The state already is appealing this month's ruling by U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar that California's corrections department must provide the surgery to 51-year-old Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, whose birth name is Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy.
Tigar denied the state's request for a stay last week, ruling that Norsworthy is likely to ultimately win her case. In the meantime, he said she is suffering psychologically and emotionally while her rights are being violated.
In its request filed Monday, the state argued that Norsworthy had received substantial gender-related treatment over the years.
"Although the district court rested its ruling on a purported violation of the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment, the record shows that Ms. Norsworthy has received extensive medical and mental-health treatment for her gender dysphoria for over 15 years," according to the request.
The state also argued that "no treating physician has ever determined that reassignment surgery is medically necessary."
The San Francisco-based judge is just the second in the nation to order a state prison system to provide the surgery. The previous order in a Massachusetts case was overturned and the U.S. Supreme Court let that rejection stand without comment on Monday.
If Tigar's order stands, Norsworthy would be the first inmate to receive such surgery in California.