Puerto Rico Begins Allowing Transgender People to Change Their Birth Certificates

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July 16, 2018

(San Juan, PR) -- Starting today, the Puerto Rican government must provide accurate birth certificates to transgender Puerto Ricans that reflect their gender identity. Today’s action follows the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico’s groundbreaking decision in April in a case brought by Lambda Legal on behalf of three transgender Puerto Ricans and Puerto Rico Para Tod@s that struck down Puerto Rico’s categorical ban on corrections to the gender marker on birth certificates in a first-of-its-kind federal lawsuit.

In that ruling, the federal court also ordered Commonwealth officials to allow transgender Puerto Ricans to secure such corrections. On Friday, the Executive Director of the Demographic Registry, Wanda Llovet Díaz, release a letter to instruct the agency and local offices about the policy change to Puerto Rico Law 24 of 1931.

"It is a huge relief to finally have an accurate birth certificate that is a true reflection of who I am,” said Lambda Legal client Daniela Arroyo-González. “It makes me feel safer and like my country finally recognizes me.”

“Today marks a momentous occasion for transgender people in Puerto Rico. For years, Puerto Rico refused to recognize the identity of transgender Puerto Ricans. Now, following our historic victory in April, Puerto Rico will finally allow transgender people to correct the gender marker on their birth certificates to accurately reflect who they are. Birth certificates are more than a piece paper. For transgender people, it’s a life-changing and essential tool to access necessary services, travel, work and live with safety and dignity.” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. “We are pleased to see the Puerto Rican government comply with their constitutional duty to respect the privacy, dignity, and liberty of transgender Puerto Ricans.”

To request a correction to the Puerto Rico birth certificate, transgender people should fill a form titled “Request to Gender Change for Transgender People” at the Demographic Registry headquarter offices in Puerto Rico. The form should be presented with one of three forms of identity: 1) passport with the true gender identity; 2) driver’s license with the true gender; or, 3) certificate from a health professional (template attached in the request form); as well a $20 stamp from the internal revenue office. For more information, you can contact Puerto Rico’s Demographic Registry or Lambda Legal’s Help Desk.

Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit challenging the ban on behalf of two transgender women – Daniela Arroyo González and Victoria Rodríguez Roldán – and one transgender man, J.G., identified only by his initials, as well as Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, arguing that denying transgender Puerto Ricans the ability to obtain accurate birth certificates violated the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the First Amendment, by forcing transgender Puerto Ricans, through their birth certificates, to identify with a gender that is not who they are.

On April 3, 2018, the district court granted Lambda Legal's request to strike down Puerto Rico's policy prohibiting transgender people from correcting the gender marker on their birth certificates.. On April 20, 2018, the court issued its final opinion and order, in which it held that Puerto Rico's birth certificate policy violated the decisional and informational privacy rights of transgender Puerto Ricans.

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, almost one-third of transgender individuals who showed an identity document with a name or gender marker that conflicted with their perceived gender were harassed, denied benefits or services, discriminated against, or assaulted. Transgender individuals also are disproportionately targeted for hate crimes.

The lawsuit is Arroyo-González et al. v. Rosselló-Nevares et al. You can read the ruling here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/pr_arroyo_20180420_opini...

This case was handled by Lambda Legal attorneys Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Demoya Gordon, Dru Levasseur and Kara Ingelhart.  They were joined by pro-bono co-counsel Celina Romany-Siaca of San Juan, PR, and Richard Batchelder, Daniel O’Connor, David Soutter, Sara Jones and Bonnie Doyle of Ropes & Gray LLP.

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Press Contact: Samy Nemir,  (212) 809-8585, ext. 240.

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Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

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