A group of 50 state lawmakers signed a letter urging the state's Department of Correction commissioner to appeal a recent controversial federal court ruling to allow a Massachusetts inmate to have sex reassignment surgery.
In the letter dated Thursday, the lawmakers said they are "greatly troubled" by Chief Judge Mark Wolf's Tuesday ruling, which said that the state must allow Robert Kosilek to have a sex change. Kosilek, who now goes by Michelle Lynne Kosilek, is serving a life sentence without parole for killing her wife Cheryl in Mansfield in 1990. She sued the DOC more than 10 years ago for the procedure.
"The Court's decision, if left standing, will compel an absurd action by your department," the lawmakers wrote in their letter to DOC Commissioner Luis Spencer. "Clearly the Eighth Amendment provides important protections when a person enters our prison system, but it cannot be fairly said to require the state to accommodate every last need and want of convicted murderers."
After the 126-page ruling was released Tuesday, a DOC spokeswoman said the agency is exploring its appellate options.
Republican Senate and House leaders Sen. Bruce Tarr and Rep. Bradley Jones, as well as other Republicans and Democrats signed the letter.
Kosilek has been taking hormones while living in an all-male prison in Norfolk, twice tried to kill herself and also tried to castrate herself.
Wolf said that the surgery was a necessary treatment for Kosilek's gender identity disorder and that by blocking it, state officials were denying her Eighth Amendment rights from cruel and unusual punishment.
In his ruling, Wolf criticized state officials, including former DOC heads, who denied Kosilek treatment not because of "sincere or reasonable" concerns for safety, but because of their belief that providing the treatment would "provoke public and political controversy, criticism, scorn and ridicule."