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RICHMOND (AP) -- A Virginia inmate will get a full court hearing on her lifelong quest for a sex-change operation.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday in the case of Ophelia De'Lonta. They sent her case back to U.S. District Court to decide.

A federal judge dismissed De'Lonta's self-filed lawsuit in 2011 after he concluded the Virginia Department of Corrections was adequately treating De'Lonta's gender identity disorder, a mental diagnosis in which people believe they were born the wrong sex.

While the appeals judges did not rule on DeLonta's bid for a sex change, they agreed unanimously that she is entitled to a hearing on her claim that denying her sex-assignment surgery is a violation of her Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.

AP-WF-01-28-13 1917GMT

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