An Army Court of Criminal Appeals has instructed the military to end its practice of using the male pronoun to describe Private First Class Chelsea Manning, currently serving a 35-year prison sentence under the Espionage Act for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks.
The court has ordered that "future formal papers filed before this court and all future orders and decisions issued by this court shall either be neutral, e.g., Private First Class Manning or appellant, or employ a feminine pronoun," the Huffington Post reported Thursday
The court "rightly recognized that dignifying Chelsea’s womanhood is not the trivial matter that the government attempted to frame it as," said American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Chase Strangio, who is representing Manning in her lawsuit to obtain "adequate medical care" for her gender identity disorder.
That fight continues, "but at least the government can no longer attempt to erase Chelsea’s identity by referring to her as male in every legal filing," Strangio said
"This is an important victory for Chelsea, who has been mistreated by the government for years," said Nancy Hollander, lead counsel representing Manning in her appeal.
Though it is "only a small step in a long legal fight, my co-counsel, Vincent Ward, Captain Dave Hammond, and I are thrilled that Chelsea will be respected as the woman she is in all legal filings," Hollander added.
Last month, in a key development in her legal battles against the Defense Department (officially known as Manning vs. Hagel), Manning started a hormone therapy regimen
. But the military continues to deny her request to grow her hair longer in a way consistent with standards for female prisoners.
Manning, who is serving her sentence at the U.S. military prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, has also been seeking the right to live and dress as a woman and to possibly undergo surgery as part of her gender change.
It is unclear how much money taxpayers may be required to pay for any sex-change procedure Manning undergoes. "Significant costs for surgical procedures are one-time costs that, again, apply to a small percentage of people," according to the Human Rights Campaign
, a gay-rights group.
"The total costs of transgender-specific care for one person are often estimated between $25,000-$75,000," the group adds, but "these costs are minimal compared to other expensive procedures such as defibrillator implants ($68,000 – 102,000) or colon cancer drugs ($250,000 per patient)."
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