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Patrick defends appeal of sex-change surgery decision

Governor Deval Patrick, facing criticism from his allies in the gay-rights movement, today defended his administration’s decision to appeal court-ordered sex-change surgery for a convicted murderer.

In a wide-ranging interview on WTKK-FM, Patrick also indicated he opposes medical marijuana, but would be open to legalizing physician-assisted suicide, two issues that will appear on the November ballot in Massachusetts.

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Patrick also weighed in on the Senate race between Elizabeth Warren and Senator Scott Brown, saying it was “childish and disappointing” of Brown’s supporters, including a lawyer in Brown’s Senate office, to mock Warren’s supporters by making Indian war whoops and tomahawk motions at a campaign event last weekend.

“If that’s what they do publicly, you wonder what they do privately,” said Patrick, a Democrat who has endorsed Warren.

Asked about Brown’s demand that Warren release a list of the corporate clients she has represented in legal matters, Patrick said, “I don’t think that’s a problem,” but added, “I assume that Scott Brown would do the same.” Both Brown and Warren, however, have declined to disclose the clients they have represented.

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Discussing his administration’s decision to appeal a federal judge’s ruling ordering sex-reassignment surgery for a transsexual inmate, Patrick struck a muted tone. The governor said the state needs to consider whether the safety of the prisoner, who identifies herself as Michelle Kosilek, would be jeopardized by the surgery.

“It’s not a reflection of a point of view about gender-identity disorder,” Patrick said, in his first comments on the appeal. “Apparently, that is a real disorder. And, indeed, Kosilek has been getting treatment for that disorder. The question is whether it should go all the way to surgery, and what the implications are for the safety of Kosilek and other inmates, in that event.”

A federal judge, Mark L. Wolf, has ruled that the state must provide the surgery for Kosilek to treat the prisoner’s medically diagnosed gender-identity disorder. Patrick’s decision to appeal that ruling, however, has been condemned by gay rights groups, which typically side with the governor on many issues. On Wednesday, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders released a statement on Patrick’s decision, saying, “Constitutional rights belong to everyone, even the least loved, least popular among us.”

Speaking about the medical-marijuana ballot question, Patrick said he sympathizes with the argument that it could help ease the suffering of patients, but said, ultimately, “I don’t have a lot of enthusiasm for the medical marijuana.” Patrick also said he has “never experienced marijuana myself,” but, as a student at Milton Academy and Harvard in the 1970s, “there was probably enough around me that I got a contact high.”

The governor said he’s “a lot more sympathetic” to the ballot question that would legalize physician-assisted suicide, which is strongly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church. Patrick recalled how his mother and grandmother suffered at the end of their lives, and said, “I would think I would like to have that option, personally.”

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com
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