Federal judge rules Puerto Rico birth certificate gender marker policy unconstitutional

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A federal judge has ruled Puerto Rico must allow transgender people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates.

Lambda Legal last April filed a lawsuit on behalf of three trans Puerto Ricans and Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a local advocacy group. U.S. District Court Judge Carmen Consuelo Cerezo in her ruling that she signed on March 28 said the U.S. commonwealth’s birth certificate policy, which the Puerto Rico Supreme Court decreed in 2005, is unconstitutional.

“This is a tremendous victory for our clients and all transgender people born in Puerto Rico,” Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal, told the Washington Blade on Tuesday in a statement. “The Puerto Rican government must now allow transgender Puerto Ricans to change the gender markers on their birth certificates so that they accurately reflect and affirm their identities.”

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, on Twitter described the ruling as “historic.”

“At Puerto Rico Para Tod@s we are proud to be part of this case that allows trans people to amend their birth certificates,” he wrote. “Thank you Lambda Legal and this case’s trans plaintiffs for their courage.

Gonzalez-Pagan told the Blade the policy was “not only discriminatory” but it “also was a relic from the past reflecting archaic views about who we are as a people and a society.”

“A birth certificate is an essential identity document,” he said. “Birth certificates are necessary to access an array of rights and benefits such as employment, education, housing, travel and the ability to vote. It is vital for identity documents to accurately reflect who we are. We are pleased that the court recognized that the government cannot interfere with transgender people’s ability to live as their authentic selves and that attempts to do so are unconstitutional.”

Consuelo issued her ruling less than seven months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.

Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers

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