SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California paroled a transgender inmate on Wednesday, one day before a federal appeals court was to hear her request for the state prison system to pay for her sex reassignment surgery.
Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, 51, was released from Mule Creek State Prison, a men’s facility east of Sacramento, and will be on parole in San Francisco.
Gov. Jerry Brown allowed her parole last week when he took no action on a Board of Parole Hearings’ recommendation that Norsworthy be freed 30 years after fatally shooting Franklin Gordon Liefer Jr., 26, following an argument in a Fullerton bar in November 1985.
The state said in a court filing that her release ends her attempt to have the prison-funded sex reassignment surgery.
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Still, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took her case under consideration after canceling Thursday’s arguments. A federal judge in April ordered the state to provide the surgery.
“I want people to know that this isn’t over for me. My case is ongoing and I’m going to keep on fighting for myself and for all the women still inside,” Norsworthy said in a statement released through her attorneys.
Last week the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced it will provide sex reassignment operation for another inmate, Shiloh Quine, 56, to settle a separate lawsuit.
That makes California the first state to agree to pay for a transgender inmate’s sex reassignment surgery.
As a free woman, Norsworthy’s attorneys said she can have the surgery paid for by Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor and those with lower incomes.