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Zayre-Brown v. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety

Location: North Carolina
Status: Ongoing
Last Update: March 1, 2024

What's at Stake

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety has continually denied Kanautica Zayre-Brown, an incarcerated transgender woman in their custody, access to gender-affirming surgery.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, and Patterson Harkavy LLP filed a complaint on behalf of Kanautica Zayre-Brown, a transgender woman incarcerated at Anson Correctional Institution, who is being denied essential gender-affirming health care. North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS) officials’ denial of gender-affirming healthcare and pattern of inhumane treatment has caused Mrs. Zayre-Brown extreme emotional and psychological distress, which has led to self-harm and thoughts of suicide. In addition to denying her gender-affirming health care, DPS housed Mrs. Zayre-Brown in male facilities for nearly two years before transferring her to a women’s facility, despite knowing that she is a transgender woman since she entered DPS custody.

DPS’s refusal to provide necessary health care for Mrs. Zayre-Brown violates the U.S. and North Carolina Constitutions, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The complaint seeks damages and an injunction requiring DPS to provide Mrs. Zayre-Brown with necessary medical care and accommodations for her gender dysphoria, including the use of appropriate names and pronouns, consistent hormone therapy maintenance, and gender-affirming surgery.

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.

UPDATE: On September 23, 2022, the court issued an order denying both defendants’ motion to dismiss and plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction. On February 20, 2024, the court held an evidentiary hearing in the case, and on February 29, 2024, plaintiff filed a renewed motion for partial summary judgment.

 

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