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Massachusetts inmate sex-change ruling praised, condemned

BY DENISE LAVOIE, AP LEGAL AFFAIRS WRITER

BOSTON -- A ruling ordering Massachusetts prison officials to provide sex-reassignment surgery to an inmate is being praised by advocates as important recognition that the surgery is a legitimate treatment for gender-identity disorder, even as critics including Sen. Scott Brown call it "an outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars."

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled Tuesday in the case of Michelle Kosilek, a transgender inmate serving life in prison for murder. Wolf said the Department of Correction must provide the taxpayer-funded surgery because it is the only way to treat Kosilek's "serious medical need."

Kosilek was born male but has received hormone treatments and now lives as a woman in an all-male prison. Kosilek was named Robert when married to Cheryl Kosilek and convicted of murdering her in 1990.

While courts around the country have found that prisons must evaluate transgender inmates to determine their health care needs, most have ordered hormone treatments and psychotherapy. Wolf is the first judge to actually order sex reassignment surgery as a remedy to gender-identity disorder.

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