Reiyn Keohane was placed in a male prison facility in Florida and for years has been fighting through the ACLU to have her rights as a woman recognized. That day finally came last Wednesday when a Florida judge ruled that transgender women should have access to hormones and proper grooming and dress. The decision was affirmed by the fact that the state cannot be “deliberately indifferent” to the serious medical needs of prisoners, as per the Constitution. After much deliberation and sway from the ACLU, Judge Mark E. Walker, the chief judge for the Northern District of Florida, saw a clear violation of the Constitution in the case of transgender incarcerated folks. He wrote:
And if Ms. Keohane’s treatment in Defendant’s custody isn’t deliberate indifference, then surely there is no such beast. Ultimately, this case is about whether the law, and this Court by extension, recognizes Ms. Keohane’s humanity as a transgender woman. The answer is simple. It does, and I do.
Judge Walker ended his opinion stating, “Ms. Keohane is not an animal. She is a transgender woman. Forthwith, Defendant shall treat her with the dignity the Eighth Amendment commands.”
“Compassion for people in prison is so rare, those passages make me tear up,” wrote ACLU Director James Esseks. “The portion of the decision that requires the state to let Reiyn follow the women’s hair length standards is particularly important — and a legal first. This decision was issued five years to the day after Chelsea Manning came out as transgender and was told by the United States government in no uncertain terms that she would not get any treatment for her gender dysphoria while she was in prison.”
GO applauds and supports this decision to recognize the rights and dignity of transgender people. To learn more about this historic court decision, read here.