A U.S. Army appeals court has ruled that military authorities must cease referring to Chelsea Manning, the transgender woman convicted of leaking a huge tranche of classified information, as a man.
In a ruling dated March 4, the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals said that previous documents referring to Manning will not be amended to reflect her gender transition, but that in the future she will be referred to by gender-neutral terms, or by feminine pronouns.
The ruling represents a small victory for Manning, who is serving a 35-year prison sentence related to her leaking of classified information to Wikileaks.
U.S. Army lawyers had resisted efforts by Manning's legal team to change her gender designation, since she officially announced her transition in August 2013.
In a Feb. 9 submission to the court, government lawyers made a point of referring to Manning as Bradley, and said that “unless directed otherwise by this honorable court, the government intends to refer to [Manning] using masculine pronouns,” the Guardian reported.
In addition, the Army opposed the request as it argued there was a lack of legal basis and said Manning didn't show how it would serve the interests of justice, NBC News reported.
“This is an important victory for Chelsea, who has been mistreated by the government for years,” said Nancy Hollander, Manning’s lead attorney, in a statement cited by the Huffington Post. “Though only a small step in a long legal fight, my co-counsel, Vincent Ward, Captain Dave Hammond, and I are thrilled that Chelsea will be respected as the woman she is in all legal filings.”
Manning obtained a legal name change from Bradley Edward Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning in April 2014, shortly after her conviction. Last month, a U.S. Army commandant approved hormone therapy for Manning, to aid in her gender transition.
Manning is the first person to receive hormone treatment from the U.S. military. The organization will not, however, allow Manning to grow her hair like female prisoners, the Nation reported.
The U.S. military bans transgender individuals from serving in its ranks, but former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told ABC News that he believed the policy “should continually be reviewed.”