Puerto Rico Is Denying Transgender People Accurate Birth Certificates; Lambda Legal Is Suing

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June 26, 2017
Lambda Legal client Daniela Arroyo González

Today, Lambda Legal filed papers urging a federal court to strike down Puerto Rico’s policy denying transgender people accurate birth certificates in its case on behalf of three transgender people born in Puerto Rico and the advocacy group Puerto Rico Para Tod@s.

“The ability to define and express one’s identity, and to have that identity respected by the government, is at the very core of our constitutional rights to inpidual liberty, dignity and autonomy," psaid Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal.p "Puerto Rico’s absolute prohibition on the ability of transgender people to have accurate birth certificates violates the constitutional rights of transgender people born in the Commonwealth."

The ban endangers transgender people who have identity documents that don’t match who they are by putting them at greater risk for being ‘outed’ as transgender and increasing the likelihood of discrimination, harassment and violence.”

In early April, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico 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 violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution by forcing transgender Puerto Ricans, through their birth certificates, to identify with a gender that is not who they are.

The ban also violates transgender Puerto Ricans’ right to free speech under the First Amendment. The defendants, the government of Puerto Rico, responded with a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on June 12, which the plaintiffs also opposed today.

“Birth certificates serve as proof of identity, it is also often a prerequisite to gain employment, enroll in school and to determine eligibility for important benefits," Gonzalez-Pagan added. "The overwhelming majority of the states in the U.S. recognize this, 46 out of the 50 states allow transgender inpiduals to amend the gender marker. Not to mention, this practice is way out of line with Puerto Rico’s own policy of allowing transgender people to amend their gender marker on driver’s licenses."

"Without an accurate birth certificate that is congruent with my identity and that reflects my true gender (woman/female), I feel disrespected, rejected, and invalidated by Puerto Rico, my home, where I was born and have lived my whole life," said Daniela Arroyo-González. "I and all transgender people born on the island deserve to be treated as equal citizens. We are not free until we are able to express who we truly are just like the rest of my fellow Puerto Ricans who are not transgender. Denying us accurate birth certificates is an act of discrimination, and furthermore, it puts us in a very vulnerable position."