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Gillian Branstetter, [email protected]

Olivia Neal, [email protected]

August 23, 2022

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Today, attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina urged a federal district court to grant preliminary relief to Kanautica Zayre-Brown, a transgender woman currently denied adequate health care while held in a North Carolina state prison. Following today’s hearing, the judge will review the case and issue a decision on the preliminary injunction.

In a lawsuit first filed in April 2022 on behalf of Kanautica Zayre-Brown, a transgender woman incarcerated at Anson Correctional Institution, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS) is charged with denying essential gender-affirming health care to Mrs. Zayre-Brown, who has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a serious medical condition. For several years, Mrs. Zayre-Brown has requested necessary treatment consistent with established medical standards yet she continues to face numerous delays.

“State officials must comply with their legal obligations to those committed to their care, including those who are transgender,” said Jaclyn Maffetore, staff attorney with the ACLU of North Carolina. “Mrs. Zayre-Brown deserves adequate medical treatment for her gender dysphoria. DPS's failure to provide that care is a violation of her rights, an affront to her dignity, and a threat to her life.”

If granted by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, the motion for a preliminary injunction will require DPS to assess Mrs. Zayre-Brown for the gender-affirming care she has been denied and provide it in a timely fashion while the case proceeds. 

In response to litigation from the ACLU and ACLU affiliates, courts across the country have consistently recognized the right of incarcerated transgender people to adequate health care and safety measures. In late December 2021, a federal court ruled on a motion and ordered the Bureau of Prisons to evaluate Cristina Nichole Iglesias for gender-affirming surgery. This landmark decision marks the first time a court has ordered the federal government to address an incarcerated person’s medical need for gender-affirming surgery.

This lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, the ACLU of North Carolina, and Patterson Harkavy LLP.