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Two Idaho lawmakers support petition against transgender inmate’s surgery ruling

December 31, 2018
Adree Edmo

Two state lawmakers, including the second highest-ranking official in the Idaho Senate, are backing an online petition against a federal judge’s ruling that says Idaho must provide gender confirmation surgery to a transgender inmate.

Idaho Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, and state Rep.-elect Chad Christensen, R-Ammon, say they support an online petition that David Jones, a citizen of Georgetown in Bear Lake County, launched on the website MoveOn.org on Dec. 17.

The petition states Idaho taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for the costs of providing gender confirmation surgery to Adree Edmo, 31, a transgender inmate from the Pocatello area who was living as a woman before her 2012 incarceration in a men’s Idaho Department of Correction prison in Kuna.

Edmo was sentenced in April 2012 for sexual abuse of a child under 16 in Bannock County, according to IDOC’s website. She will finish her sentence in 2021.

The petition comes after U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled on Dec. 13 that IDOC and Corizon, IDOC’s contractor for health services, must provide Edmo with gender confirmation surgery because, in refusing to do so, they are violating Edmo’s Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Hill told the Journal on Thursday that he did not sign the petition, believing his role may be to vote on potential legislation regarding the issue.

But he does support it, adding that he posted a comment to the online petition in what he called a “blanket statement” because he could not directly respond to emails from constituents who were commenting on the petition.

Hill wrote on the petition, “Thank you for signing the petition to protest taxpayer-funded sex change operations for prison inmates. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s court decision on Dec. 13 ordering the (IDOC) to provide transgender surgery for an offender convicted of sex crimes is a travesty and an insult to the people of Idaho. I share your indignation and believe we need to do everything we can to reverse this decision.

“Because the ruling is based on the judge’s interpretation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, my understanding is that our only option is to appeal the case through the judicial process. Changes in Idaho statutes by the legislature would not be sufficient to overturn the ruling. We will encourage the Idaho Attorney General to appeal Judge Winmill’s decision to a higher court that hopefully will have a better understanding of the Constitution and a greater respect for the citizens of Idaho. Thanks again for taking the time to get involved in this important issue. Best wishes.”

The Idaho Office of the Attorney General declined to comment for this story citing policies that prevent the office from commenting on cases that involve pending litigation.

Though the Attorney General’s Office could not comment on the matter, Hill said he has been in conversations with other state legislators and the Gov.-elect, Brad Little, and he is confident the office will appeal the matter.

“I certainly don’t have bad feelings toward people in the LGBTQ communities,” Hill said. “My problem is that we have a sex offender in prison who wants an expensive surgery. I don’t even think most insurance companies would pay for this surgery. I can’t judge the person’s motivation, but regardless, this is not something that the taxpayers of Idaho should be required to pay for.”

Christensen, who is among the 3,828 people who signed the online petition as of Thursday evening, said he too has no issues with the wishes of those in the LGBTQ community, but that he cannot support taxpayers fronting the bill for a person’s gender confirmation surgery.

“I don’t have a problem with anybody wanting to do what they want,” Christensen said. “If they want to have a sex change or want to be of a particular sexual orientation that is their business and not for me to judge. The issue that I have is taxpayers fronting the bill for a personal endeavor that I don’t think is directly necessary for (Edmo’s) overall health.”

In addition to signing, Christensen shared a link to the petition on his election campaign Facebook page, stating, “Please support (Jones) if you are outraged at the recent court ruling, which unconstitutionally forces Idahoans to pay for an inmate’s sex change.”

Prior to her time in prison, “(Edmo) lived full-time as a woman, dressing in women’s clothes and wearing women’s cosmetics,” she wrote in her original civil rights complaint against the prison system, dated to April 2017, according to the Associated Press.

The Associated Press reported that once in prison, Edmo wrote that she sought treatment for gender dysphoria — a medical condition in which the difference between a person’s at-birth gender and their gender identity is severe, distressing and detrimental to their quality of life.

A prison psychiatrist diagnosed her with the disorder in June 2012. A month after that initial diagnosis, a prison psychologist made the same finding, the Associated Press reported. Treatment for severe cases of gender dysphoria can include gender confirmation surgery.

The Associated Press also reported that in Edmo’s case, prison officials provided her with hormone therapy and despite years of treatment, “she continues to experience gender dysphoria so significant that she cuts herself to relieve emotional pain,” according to Winmill’s court order.

Before Jones launched the petition, The Family Policy Alliance of Idaho, a Christian organization focused on public-policy creation, urged Idaho officials in a written statement released last week to file an appeal to the ruling.

It remains unclear if an appeal has yet been filed.

In addition to creating the petition, Jones said he is hopeful that both Idaho and the federal government pass legislation making it unlawful for government entities to be required to pay for gender confirmation surgeries.

“Everybody who has a transgender surgery done usually pays for it out of their own pocket and they save for years and years to get it done,” Jones said. “There are veterans who go without health care when they need it. The same can be said about children and single moms, and here is this person just getting healthcare handed to (her). I’m not against the transgender thing, but I don’t support it either, especially if it’s coming out of the taxpayer’s pocket.”

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