Puerto Rico Allows Trans People to Update Birth Certificates

A transgender flag is woven

Puerto Rico will now allow transgender residents to update the gender markers on their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity, as per a ruling on a lawsuit against the island's government.

The policy change went into effect Monday, three months after the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico overruled the territory’s ban on correction of gender markers on such documents in the landmark Arroyo v. Rosselló case, which arose from a first-of-its-kind federal lawsuit.

"The right to identify our own existence lies at the heart of one's humanity," Judge Carmen Consuelo Cerezo wrote in the opinion. "And so, we must heed their voices: 'the woman that I am,' 'the man that I am.'"

 In the case that pushed Puerto Rico one step forward in transgender rights, plaintiffs Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, Daniela Arroyo, Victoria Rodríguez Roldán, and J.G., represented by Lambda Legal, sued the territorial government, with Gov. Ricardo Rossello Nevares as the named defendant.

The ruling found that the forced outing of a transgender individual via incorrect gender markers violated the plaintiffs’ right to privacy. The Findings of Fact assert that "the forced disclosure of the transgender status of plaintiffs and other transgender persons by way of inaccurate birth certificates exposes them to prejudice, discrimination, distress, harassment, and violence."

"It is a huge relief to finally have an accurate birth certificate that is a true reflection of who I am," Arroyo, the plaintiff after whom the case was named, said in a statement provided by  Lambda Legal. "It makes me feel safer and like my country finally recognizes me."

Now there are only three states that broadly prohibit updating the gender marker on official documents: Kansas, Ohio, and Tennessee. Other states have varying policy on qualifications for updating one’s personal records, which can be read here.

Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union have an ongoing suit with regard to Ohio’s policy. State courts in Ohio do not have the authority to issue court orders regarding changes in gender marker, but a court order out of state would be accepted, according to the Transgender Law Center.

Kansas faces a similar issue as Ohio, as the Kansas Division of Vital Statistics contends it does not have authority to edit gender markers on birth certificates, a claim that has earned the state a lawsuit from Transgender Law Center.

Tennessee law explicitly states, "The sex of an individual will not be changed on the original certificate of birth as a result of sex change surgery."

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