Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hormone case goes to federal court - MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL

Trial to test state's Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act

By JOHN DIEDRICH
jdiedrich@journalsentinel.com

Posted: Oct. 21, 2007

A trial set to start today in federal court will test a Wisconsin law that prohibits hormone therapy for male state prison inmates who are trying to become women.

The lawsuit, brought by three inmates, says that Wisconsin's law passed in 2005 amounts to cruel punishment and unfair treatment.

The law, believed to be the only one of its kind in the nation, was a response to the case of Scott Konitzer. Konitzer, who now goes by the name Donna Dawn Konitzer, is serving 123 years for multiple armed robberies and for stabbing another inmate, and has been receiving hormone therapy as treatment for gender identity disorder since 1999. But when the state Department of Corrections would not allow him to have gender reassignment surgery, which can cost $10,000 to $20,000, he sued. That case is ongoing and not a part of the trial starting today.

When legislators learned of Konitzer's suit, they wrote the Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act, prohibiting the state from providing hormone therapy to inmates. The lawsuit was filed in 2006 challenging the law. Several inmates were cut off the hormones for a time and suffered side effects, the lawsuit says.

U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert issued a preliminary injunction in early 2006 ordering the therapy to resume. A new lawsuit was filed last week by another inmate seeking the hormone therapy, and Clevert extended the injunction to include that person.

Laurence Dupuis, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, called the case a "classic prisoner health case."

"It's worse than most prisoner health cases because here you have a bunch of legislators trying to practice medicine," he said.

Dupuis expects much of the trial will revolve around gender identity disorder. It is defined as having a strong and persistent discomfort with a person's birth gender and a wish to live as the other, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a reference book used by mental health professionals.

The trial is expected to last three days.

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