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Idaho officials sued by inmates over law blocking public funds for gender care

Demonstrators protesting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation dropped 48,000 handmade hearts — meant to represent LGBTQ+ Idahoans — down the rotunda of the Idaho State Capitol Building in Boise on April 2, 2024.  (Kyle Pfannenstiel/Idaho Capital Sun)
By Mia Maldonado Idaho Capital Sun

The ACLU of Idaho, on behalf of three people who are incarcerated in Idaho, has filed a federal lawsuit in the Idaho District Court against state officials over a new law that bans public funds from going toward gender-affirming care.

House Bill 668 took effect on Monday, and it prevents the use of taxpayer funds from covering gender-affirming medication and surgeries for adults and children. That includes Idaho Medicaid. Also under the law, no state property or facility is allowed to be used for providing gender-affirming care.

The lawsuit was filed June 28. The three plaintiffs, who use anonymous names in the lawsuit, receive prescribed hormone replacement therapy for gender dysphoria from Centurion Health – the medical care provider contracted by the Idaho Department of Correction.

But in May and June, according to the complaint, correctional staff notified the plaintiffs and other transgender incarcerated individuals that their hormone replacement therapy would be terminated or their dose would be lowered in preparation for HB 668.

The plaintiffs allege that the withdrawal or reduction of their prescribed medications violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. They are seeking a preliminary injunction, or a halt in enforcement of the law until the case is settled.

The lawsuit, Roe v. Labrador, names Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador, Idaho Gov. Brad Little, Department of Correction Director Josh Tewalt, Deputy Director Bree Derrick and Centurion Health.

Rebecca De Leon, the spokesperson for the ACLU of Idaho, said the organization was not available for comment at this time.

The three transgender women in prison suing the state

The three plaintiffs are all transgender women using the pseudonyms “Roe,” “Poe,” and “Doe.”

The first plaintiff is Jane Roe, who is incarcerated at the Idaho State Correctional Center in Kuna. Roe has been incarcerated since 2014 and anticipates being incarcerated until March 2033.

Roe has used a different, feminine name since age 12, according to the complaint, and was formally diagnosed with gender dysphoria during the intake process in Idaho’s correctional facilities.

Roe has received hormone therapy since 2015, receiving oral hormone therapy twice a day from correctional staff. The hormone therapy has “greatly improved” her health and well-being, according to the complaint.

The second plaintiff is Jane Poe, who is incarcerated at the Idaho State Correctional Institution in Kuna. Poe has been in prison since April 2023 and is expected to be incarcerated until 2025.

Poe has lived as a woman since 2017. She also was diagnosed with gender dysphoria while in custody. In June, medical correctional staff told her she would be tapered off her hormone therapy medications beginning July 1 – the day the law took effect.

The third plaintiff is Jane Doe. Doe is also incarcerated at the Idaho State Correctional Institution. Doe has been incarcerated since 2023 and expects to stay in correctional custody for several more years, according to the complaint.

Before she was incarcerated, Doe’s general care physician diagnosed her with gender dysphoria in 2020. She received hormone therapy for those three years before her incarceration.

“After starting hormone therapy, Ms. Doe finally started feeling like herself,” the complaint states. “Her anxiety decreased. She was finally able to hold a job. She got her first apartment. Her quality of life drastically improved.”

HB 668 would be emotionally and physically devastating for the plaintiffs, the complaint alleges. According to the complaint, the three plaintiffs fear they will face increased anxiety and depression without access to their prescribed hormone medication.

The case is a class action lawsuit. This means that while it was filed on behalf of three plaintiffs, the plaintiffs are representing all people in Idaho correctional facilities who are or will be diagnosed with gender dysphoria who would normally receive hormone therapy without House Bill 668 taking effect.

In an unrelated case, a federal judge on Saturday temporarily blocked the new law from applying to seven transgender and nonbinary Idahoans on Medicaid, according to previous Idaho Capital Sun reporting.

Federal judge Raymond E. Patricco, chief magistrate judge in the District of Idaho, issued a temporary restraining order in that case that began Monday, blocking the new law only for the seven patients, who are plaintiffs in a lawsuit.