Does the failure to provide inmates diagnosed with gender dysphoria sex-reassignment surgery amount to “cruel and unusual punishment”? The Supreme Court had an opportunity to weigh in on that question thanks to an appeal from a Texas convict. The court ended up taking a pass on the case, which tacitly endorses the 2-1 ruling of the Fifth Circuit that the Eighth Amendment does not guarantee sex changes for inmates:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by a convicted murderer who filed a civil rights lawsuit because Texas prison officials denied her request to be considered for gender reassignment surgery.
The justices let stand a lower court’s decision to reject the claim by inmate Vanessa Lynn Gibson that denying the surgery request violated the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. …
Court papers said Gibson was diagnosed in 2014 with gender dysphoria, which medical experts define as distress from the internal conflict between physical gender and gender identity. She has suffered from severe depression, engaged in self-mutilation and attempted suicide several times, court papers said.
Gibson was provided with hormone therapy, but Texas has no policy allowing for “irreversible surgical intervention,” according to the state.
The denial itself is interesting for what it says. It takes four justices to grant cert, and there are certainly four liberal jurists on the court right now. When the court orders deny cert to cases that a smaller number of jurists want heard, the denial will occasionally prompt a response from one or more of the justices in arguing why the court has erred in refusing to pick up the case. There’s none of that with Gibson v Collier et al, which suggests that there wasn’t a whole lot of sympathy for the argument on either wing of the court.