ACLU Will Sue The Military If Chelsea Manning Is Not Given Gender Treatment

Failure to provide the transgender inmate with medical treatment “violates her well-established constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.”

Chelsea Manning

The Associated Press

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

Jason Reed / Reuters


WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Chelsea Manning have given the military until Sept. 4 to put in place appropriate medical treatment for the transgender woman, who is an inmate at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

If the military does not act by that time, the lawyers say they will sue to ensure that Manning receives the treatment.

“Our constitution requires that the government provide medically necessary care to the individuals it holds in its custody,” Chase Strangio, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said in a statement. “It is cruel and unusual punishment to withhold from Ms. Manning the care that the military’s own doctors have deemed medically necessary. The Army is withholding her care for political reasons, which is simply not permitted by our Constitution.”

In a letter dated Aug. 11, Manning’s lawyers note “[t]he Army’s continued indifference to Ms. Manning’s serious medical need for treatment, despite the recommendations of the Army’s own medical providers.”

Manning was convicted of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses in July 2013 after leaking thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. She announced in a statement through her lawyers the next month that she is transgender and wished to begin transitioning. Although Pentagon sources told the Associated Press in July that “rudimentary” gender treatments have been authorized for Manning, one of her lawyers told BuzzFeed at the time that Manning’s legal team had not yet been informed of any changes in treatment.

In the Aug. 11 letter, the lawyers — two from the ACLU, Strangio, and Doug Bonney from the ACLU of Kansas, and Manning’s trial counsel, David Coombs — state that the disciplinary barracks is “withholding medically necessary care from Ms. Manning in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” The letter is addressed to the commandant of the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, where Manning is serving her sentence, along with several others, up to and including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

The letter lays out Manning’s efforts to get treatment for gender dysphoria, including hormone therapy, since she was transferred to the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth on Aug. 22, 2013. Despite evaluation, diagnosis, and a proposed treatment plan for Manning that all were conducted by Army officials, the letter states that no treatment plan has been implemented and that Manning’s attempts to get the military to address that have been denied.

The letter then goes on to describe this inaction as a constitutional violation:

The lawyers demand a response in writing by 5 p.m. ET Sept. 4 that the military will provide Manning with “all medically necessary treatment.” If the military does not do so, the lawyers state that they “are prepared to pursue litigation to vindicate her constitutional rights.”

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Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at

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