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Convicted murderer sues, wants state to pay for gender transition surgery

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(The Center Square) – A convicted murderer diagnosed with gender dysphoria is taking the Indiana Department of Correction to court, arguing that the government should cover surgical and medical needs.

The ACLU of Indiana filed the lawsuit Monday in a federal District Court in Evansville on behalf of Autumn Cordellioné, saying a law the state’s General Assembly passed this year to block the Department of Correction from providing gender-affirming care violates the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit states that Cordellioné is also known as Jonathan Richardson, an inmate at the Branchville Correctional Facility in Perry County. According to state records, Richardson, 41, was sentenced in 2002 for up to 55 years in prison after murdering an infant.

According to the lawsuit, the ACLU said its client was diagnosed by prison medical staffers with gender dysphoria, defined as a conflict between a person’s born sex and the sex with which they identify. The inmate, according to the lawsuit, has identified as female since age 6 and has attempted suicide and committed self-harm because of the condition.

House Bill 1569 bars the Department of Corrections from using any state resources or federal money to cover sexual reassignment surgeries for inmates. It passed the House by a 68-24 vote on Feb. 14, and the Senate 38-9 on March 30. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signed it into law on April 20.

Lawyers for the ACLU say the new law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

“The DOC cannot deny necessary treatment to incarcerated people simply on the basis that they are transgender. To do so is a form of discrimination,” Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director, said in a statement. “Gender-affirming care is life-saving care. If the legislature can deny a form of health care arbitrarily, they could just as easily deny other life-saving treatments to people who are incarcerated.”

The inmate was told a mental health referral was needed for approval of the surgery, but that did not occur because of the new law.

Besides the surgery, the ACLU wants the state to provide any care needed leading up to the surgery.

A message to the Department of Corrections from The Center Square was not immediately returned on Tuesday.

The inmate’s projected release date is Dec. 31, 2027, according to DOC records.

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