U.S. Supreme Court should decide homeless camping law, gender reassignment surgery case

Idaho is at the center of two major cases that could be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court and could have implications nationwide.

Both the city of Boise and the state of Idaho have vowed to appeal rulings from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Without weighing in on the merits of each argument, we support both requests to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In Boise’s case, the issue has to do with the city’s enforcement of a city ordinance that banned people who are homeless from sleeping in public places.

The ruling has had reverberations throughout the West, as cities from Seattle to Portland, Los Angeles to Sacramento, have had to react to their own enforcement of homeless ordinances.

In the state’s case, Gov. Brad Little has vowed to appeal a ruling ordering the state to provide gender reassignment surgery to transgender prisoner Adree Edmo.

If the procedure is performed, it would be the first time in the nation an inmate has undergone gender reassignment surgery while in custody.

Even though city officials and state officials have been criticized for being heartless and cruel in their respective pursuits of appeals of their cases, we believe both are correct in appealing their cases to the Supreme Court.

That is not to say that we agree with their positions. We believe there is a lot of gray area and room for reasonable debate on both sides in both cases. That’s why we believe the cases should be decided by the Supreme Court.

In Boise’s case, the issue is whether the city has the authority to cite or criminally charge someone who is sleeping in, for example, a city park, on a sidewalk, side of a bridge or an alleyway.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in September 2018 that cities cannot prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if there is nowhere else for them to go, saying that violates the Eighth Amendment and amounts to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

Boise city officials argue that the ruling unduly curtails the city’s efforts to control its public places and conflicts with other lower courts’ and even other Supreme Court rulings, illustrating the need for a more definitive final answer from the courts.

In Idaho’s case, the heart of the issue is whether Edmo’s gender reassignment surgery is “medically necessary.” There is evidence, such as attempts at self-castration due to a medical condition called gender dysphoria, to suggest that it is medically necessary and would be life-saving surgery, and the state, once it imprisons someone, becomes responsible for the health and well-being of the person in its charge. Others argue that gender reassignment surgery is an elective surgery for which the cost should not be borne by the taxpayers of Idaho and allowing this would open the door to others to take advantage of the ruling.

In both cases, we do not believe these are frivolous attempts to file an appeal to make a political statement. Unfortunately, the state of Idaho has a history of pursuing cases that were highly unlikely to win in court, but this particular case does not fall into that category.

In both the city’s and the state’s cases, these are legitimate issues that need to be resolved amid reasonable arguments that can be made on both sides.

Ultimately, this is why we have the court system and why we have the U.S. Supreme Court. In both cases, public officials are correct in pursuing a final, definitive ruling from our nation’s highest court.

Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board.
Related stories from Idaho Statesman