GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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January 2, 2013

Should state fund sex changes for all?

Lawmaker wants to make 'profound point'

BOSTON — A Merrimack Valley lawmaker is so outraged at a ruling requiring the state to pay the lawyers’ fees of a convicted murderer who wants a sex change that he plans to file a bill that would give all Massachusetts residents the same legal benefits.

State Rep. James Lyons, R-Andover, said he will introduce the measure after Wednesday, when the new Legislature takes office. He’s being joined in this effort by Rep. Marc Lombardo, R-Billerica.

Michelle Kosilek, 63, was convicted of killing Cheryl Kosilek by strangling her. In 1990, when the murder happened in Mansfield, Michelle Kosilek was named Robert Kosilek.

Robert Kosilek changed her name to Michelle Kosilek in 1993, claiming she suffered from a gender identity disorder. She also sued the state Department of Correction, demanding that the agency pay for a sex change operation.

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf upheld her demand in September and ordered the state to provide the operation. The judge also ordered the state to pay Kosilek’s legal expenses, which Lombardo estimated exceed $700,000.

The state has appealed Wolf’s ruling to the federal Court of Appeals. Kosilek, an inmate at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Norfolk, has not yet undergone the sex change operation, according to Diane Wiffin, spokeswoman for the Department of Correction.

“We don’t comment on pending litigation,” she said.

Attorney Frances Cohen, who represents Kosilek, could not be reached for comment.

Lyons said that, if the state is going to be forced to pay a convicted murderer’s legal fees resulting from a demand for a sex change, then the Legislature should consider extending that privilege to every Massachusetts resident.

Asked if he thinks the bill has any chance of passing, Lyons did not give a direct yes-or-no answer, saying, “We’re trying to make a profound point. ... This misuse of taxpayers’ money has to stop.”

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