Last month, a federal judge ruled that Michelle Kosilek, who is serving a life sentence for murdering her wife, is entitled to the sex reassignment surgery prescribed for her by her prison doctors. Despite having already spent more opposing Kosilek’s request than the surgery would have cost, the state of Massachusetts appealed the case. The judge also ruled that the state was responsible for Kosilek’s legal fees, totaling over $800,000, which her attorneys offered to waive if the state didn’t appeal. Now, a state lawmaker is trying to avoid paying out any of the judgment, including for her surgery.
On Friday, State Rep. John H. Rogers (D) filed an amendment to the line-item in the state’s budget that pays out judgments for the state’s losses in court, arguing that he would block any payments unless (and presumably until) the case is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court:
RODGERS: It is difficult for many to believe at a time when 225,000 of our state’s citizens are out of work and even millions more struggling to get by that they should be forced to pay for a sex change of a convicted murderer, who seemingly has more rights on the inside than law-abiding citizens on the outside.
Rodgers conceivably makes two valid points, but neither holds up in reality. It is unfair that someone in prison has access to proper medical care that state citizens do not, but that is a problem with the state healthcare plan, not Kosilek’s victory. She is entitled to a baseline of healthcare even as a prisoner, and hopefully this case will set an important precedent for providing appropriate care to all transgender people who require it. Secondly, Rodgers’ frustration with the payment may seem compelling, but of course the state has spent much more — and the judgment adds substantially to that liability — than Kosilek’s surgery would have cost in the first place. Rodgers seems to so despise Kosilek’s case that not only would he commit excessive additional funding to fight it, but he also is willing to risk contempt of federal court to avoid abiding it.