In a recent legal move that has stirred controversy, the Indiana branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has initiated a federal lawsuit against the state, advocating for an inmate’s right to undergo gender transition surgery at the taxpayers’ expense.
The inmate in question, Autumn Cordellioné, formerly known as Jonathan Richardson, is serving a 55-year sentence for the murder of his 11-month-old stepdaughter in 2001.
The ACLU’s legal action aims to overturn an Indiana statute that prohibits the use of public funds for gender reassignment surgeries for inmates. The lawsuit argues that the law is in violation of the Eighth Amendment, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause. According to the ACLU, the law shows “deliberate indifference to a serious medical need.”
Cordellioné was diagnosed with gender dysphoria after his incarceration and has been on hormone therapy since 2020. Despite this, the inmate continues to experience severe mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. The ACLU contends that gender transition surgery has become a “medical necessity” for Cordellioné, who has been on a waiting list for surgical evaluation prior to the new law taking effect on July 1.
The lawsuit has drawn attention not only for its legal implications but also for the nature of Cordellioné’s crime. Records from the Indiana Department of Correction reveal that Cordellioné was convicted for manually strangling his infant stepdaughter to death. His earliest possible release date is set for 2027.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office has issued a statement opposing the lawsuit, labeling the demand for taxpayer-funded gender surgery as an “atrocity” and vowing to uphold the rule of law. The statement also highlighted that the cost for such surgeries can range from $10,000 to $150,000.
This case adds to a growing list of legal battles concerning transgender inmates’ access to gender transition surgeries. Last year, a trans-identifying male inmate in Texas became the first federal prisoner to receive gender surgery, while in 2020, an Idaho inmate won a legal fight to have the state pay for his surgery.