Denying a transgender prisoner hormone therapy is a violation of the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, the Justice Department told a court for the first time Friday.
Government lawyers urged a federal judge in Georgia to rule for Ashley Diamond, a transgender prisoner held in state prison for violating parole on a theft charge. Justice Department officials said it was the first time they had intervened in such a case.
Lawyers for the Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit on Diamond's behalf in February, saying Diamond had been living as a woman and had taken feminizing hormones for 17 years until she was sent to prison two years ago.
Diamond was sent to an all-male prison, where her women's clothes were taken away and her hormone therapy was cut off, according to the lawsuit. It says she has been sexually assaulted by other inmates and has attempted suicide and self-mutilation while undergoing withdrawal from the hormones.
The Justice Department, which filed a "statement of interest" in Diamond's case, has been increasingly active on transgender issues. It filed suit Monday against Southeastern Oklahoma State University, saying the school had discriminated against a transgender professor.
The Obama administration has struggled with the issue.
After initially denying hormone therapy and other treatment to Chelsea Manning -- the soldier who was convicted two years ago for leaking military intelligence files to WikiLeaks -- the Army relented in February.