September 23, 2014


CONTACT: Arthur Spitzer, ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, 202-457-0800; WASHINGTON, DC 

Today Chelsea Manning filed a lawsuit in federal court in the District of Columbia against Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and other Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of the Army officials for their failure to provide her with medically necessary treatment for her gender dysphoria, a condition with which she was originally diagnosed by Army doctors more than four years ago.

The complaint is accompanied by a motion for a preliminary injunction demanding that Ms. Manning be provided hormone therapy, permission to follow female grooming standards, and access to treatment by a medical provider qualified to treat her condition. Ms. Manning is currently serving a thirty-five year prison sentence at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth Kansas, and though the military recognizes that she has gender dysphoria requiring treatment, critical care has been withheld without any medical basis.

“The government continues to deny Ms. Manning’s access to necessary medical treatment for gender dysphoria, without which she will continue to suffer severe psychological harm,” said Chase Strangio, attorney in the ACLU Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Rights Project and co-counsel on Ms. Manning’s case. “Such clear disregard of well-established medical protocols constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.”

Ms. Manning is also represented by Arthur Spitzer, Legal Director of the the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital, by the ACLU of Kansas, where Ms. Manning is incarcerated,  and by her civilian defense counsel from her earlier court martial. Last month, Ms. Manning’s legal team sent a letter to the DOD and Army officials demanding that she receive treatment for gender dysphoria in accordance with medical standards of care, including hormone therapy and permission to follow female grooming standards.  Her treatment needs have continued to be unmet and her distress has escalated.

"The ACLU of the Nation’s Capital is pleased to be part of this important case,” said Mr. Spitzer. “Prisoners, including military prisoners, have a constitutional right to necessary medical treatment, and the federal courts in the District of Columbia should not hesitate to order the Army to honor its legal obligations to Ms. Manning."

Gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition and hormone therapy and changes to gender expression, like growing longer hair, to live consistently with one’s gender identity, are part of the accepted standards of care for this condition. Without necessary treatment, gender dysphoria can cause severe psychological distress, anxiety, and suicidality. For this reason, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and the American Psychological Association have issued policy statements in support of providing treatment to prisoners diagnosed with gender dysphoria in accordance with the established standards of care, as the Federal Bureau of Prisons and many state corrections agencies are already doing.