HARTFORD – A hearing on a permanent injunction begins today in federal court in New Haven in Clark v. Quiros, a lawsuit challenging the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC)’s failure to treat gender dysphoria. In this hearing, Veronica-May Clark seeks an order from the court directing the DOC to provide her with consistent, safe, and effective gender-affirming healthcare.

In September 2023, a federal judge found in favor of Ms. Clark, a transgender woman who is incarcerated in Connecticut. The judge held that Ms. Clark experienced “years of documented mental anguish” as a result of the DOC’s deliberate denial of her medical care, despite repeated requests for help. The judge further noted that DOC relied on “litigation gamesmanship rather than a fair and reasoned assessment of Ms. Clark’s medical needs” over the course of the lawsuit.

Since that time, the DOC, represented by lawyers from the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office, has continued to litigate against Ms. Clark’s efforts to obtain gender-affirming care and a remedy for the DOC’s violation of her constitutional rights. The DOC has appealed a portion of the September 2023 ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. And the Attorney General’s Office, which has argued in the district court that the efficacy of gender-affirming treatment is a “area of intense scientific debate,” also continues to rely on the purported expert testimony of a psychiatrist whose opinions about gender-affirming healthcare have been rejected by other federal courts as unreliable.    

Ms. Clark represented herself when she first filed this lawsuit in 2019. She later secured pro bono representation from Dan Barrett, Elana Bildner and Sapana Anand of the ACLU Foundation of Connecticut; Evan Cohen, Matthew Danzer, and Kelsey Powderly of Finn Dixon & Herling LLP; and Daniel Noble of Krieger Lewin LLP.

“At the end of the day, I just want healthcare,” said Veronica-May Clark. “I have been asking DOC for this for eight years and they have fought me in court at every turn. It’s hard to trust that they will ever take my medical needs seriously unless the legal system is there to hold them accountable. This should not be a battle, for me or anyone else.”

“The Department of Correction is required to provide incarcerated people with healthcare—full stop,” said Elana Bildner, ACLU Foundation of Connecticut senior staff attorney. “Gender-affirming care, which can be lifesaving, is no exception. How our society treats incarcerated people speaks to its core values. But rather than take our client seriously and treat her, Connecticut has spent years and tens of thousands of dollars litigating against Ms. Clark and attempting to undermine her medical needs. This has to end.”

“Connecticut prides itself on its support for trans rights,” said Dan Barrett, ACLU Foundation of Connecticut legal director. “We are known for our opportunities and inclusion, especially for trans people seeking medical and community care. That attitude should extend to trans people who are incarcerated, not least because the state has a legal obligation to provide their medical care.”

Gender dysphoria is a medical diagnosis for someone who experiences the severe distress that can occur when their true gender does not match with their outward appearance and/or the sex they were assigned at birth. When gender dysphoria develops, it can be treated with a medical protocol designed to alleviate the person’s distress. Not all transgender people develop gender dysphoria, and being transgender is not an illness.

For more about the case: https://www.acluct.org/en/cases/clark-v-department-correction

For a copy of the 2023 decision: