Appeals court rules gender dysphoria is a protected disability

Jail
Prison for women. |

A federal court has ruled that the Americans With Disabilities Act protects trans-identified people and that a prison policy requiring inmates to be housed based on their biological sex, specifically their external genitalia, violates federal law.

In a 2-1 decision released Tuesday, the 4th United States Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling saying the Americans With Disabilities Act does not apply to trans-identified people.

Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, appointed to the bench by former President Bill Clinton, delivered the court’s opinion. The matter will revert to the district court “for further proceedings consistent with this notice.”

The decision stems from a trans-identified man who filed a lawsuit against the sheriff of Fairfax County, Va., as well as a Fairfax County Adult Detention Center nurse and jail deputy, alleging discrimination and harassment after spending six months incarcerated in the facility’s men’s quarters.

Kesha Williams argues that gender dysphoria – persistent discomfort with one’s biological sex – is “a disability suffered by many (but certainly not all) transgender people.”

Williams sued nurse Xin Wang, who performed a ‘preliminary medical assessment’ on the plaintiff at the start of the six-month prison sentence and called Williams a ‘man’ after discovering the presence of male genitalia , even though Williams “for fifteen years had received hormonal medical treatment for … gender dysphoria.

Prison policy required that “[m]detainees to be classified as such if they have male genitalia” and “[f]female prisoners are classified as such if they have female genitalia.

In his view, Motz argued that this policy “violates federal law.” She cited it as a violation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act. The law requires prison authorities to “consider on a case-by-case basis whether the placement would ensure the health and safety of the inmate, and whether the placement would present management or security concerns” when “deciding to assign a transgender or intersex at a facility for male or female inmates.

Williams argues that Wang did not promptly complete a request for “prescribed hormonal medication for gender dysphoria”, which resulted in “significant mental and emotional distress”. The notice states that while Williams was housed on the men’s side of the prison, prison deputies “repeatedly harassed [him] As it concerns [his] sex and gender identity.

“MPs ignored [his] request that they refer to [him] like a woman. Instead, they referred to [him] as “sir”, “sir”, “he” or “sir”. Williams’ requests for certain accommodations — to have a private shower and to have body searches conducted by an assistant — were denied. A deputy threatened to place [him] in isolation if [he] resisted a search by a male deputy. Male inmates also harassed Williams, causing [him] fear for [his] safety throughout [his] incarceration in men’s housing.

One deputy, in particular, called Deputy Garcia in the notice, ended up as a defendant in the lawsuit for allegedly subjecting Williams to a ”very aggressive’ search that resulted in bruising to his [his] breast and caused [him] ‘pain for several days'” in addition to mocking Williams and [making “light of his actions.” 

The plaintiff accused both Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid and Garcia of “gross negligence.” The court ruled in favor of Williams on all aspects of the lawsuit. 

“In light of the ‘basic promise of equality … that animates the ADA,’ we see no legitimate reason why Congress would intend to exclude from the ADA’s protections transgender people who suffer from gender dysphoria,” Motz wrote.

While Motz was joined by Obama-appointed Judge Pamela Harris in the majority opinion, Trump-appointed Judge A. Marvin Quattlebaum authored a dissent taking issue with the majority’s interpretation of the ADA and what constitutes “gross negligence” under Virginia law. 

The Americans With Disabilities Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1990 and signed into law by then-President George H.W. Bush. The law contains text explicitly declaring that “Under this Act, the term ‘disability’ shall not include – (1) transvestitism, transsexualism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, [and] gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments or other sexual behavior disorders.

The defendants cited this part of the ADA when they rejected Williams’ claim that their actions violated the law.

Motz noted that Congress amended the Americans With Disabilities Act to clarify that the term “disability” “shall be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals under this chapter, to the maximum extent permitted by law.” . [ADA]’s terms. The judge also pointed to the evolution of the medical community’s understanding and classification of gender dysphoria and gender identity disorders in the years since the ADA’s enactment.

The presence of men who identify as women in women’s prisons has raised concerns about the safety of biological women. At a New Jersey women’s prison, an identified trans man impregnated two biologically female inmates and was later transferred out of the facility.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be contacted at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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