April 10, 2017 at 9:34 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Lawsuit challenges Puerto Rico transgender birth certificate policy

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A federal lawsuit urges Puerto Rico to allow transgender people to change the gender marker on their birth certificate.
(Image by Nicolas Raymond; courtesy Flickr)

A federal lawsuit that Lambda Legal filed last week urges Puerto Rico to allow transgender people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates.

Lambda Legal notes in the lawsuit it filed on behalf of four trans Puerto Ricans and Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a local advocacy group, on April 6 that 46 out of 50 states allow trans people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates.

The U.S. commonwealth allows trans people to change the gender marker on their driver’s license. Lambda Legal in its lawsuit says Puerto Rico’s birth certificate policy, which the Puerto Rico Supreme Court decreed in 2005, is “not supported by any compelling, important or even legitimate government interest.”

“Puerto Rico’s policy categorically barring transgender people from correcting the gender marker on their birth certificates establishes a barrier to the full engagement in society by transgender people and subjects transgender people to invasions of privacy, prejudice, discrimination, humiliation, harassment, stigma and even violence,” reads the lawsuit. “For transgender people who suffer from gender dysphoria, being denied the ability to correct the gender marker on their birth certificates interferes with their medical treatment and may increase their dysphoria and distress.”

Two of the plaintiffs — Joanna Cifredo and Victoria Rodríguez Roldán — live in D.C.

Rodríguez, who is the director of the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Trans Justice Project, told the Washington Blade on Friday during a telephone interview that she had to “make all sorts of ad hoc arrangements with professors (at the University of Maine School of Law) to make sure I wasn’t being outed.” Rodríguez also said she had to use her passport while traveling between Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland because the gender marker on her driver’s license was male.

The Puerto Rico Department of Transportation in 2016 announced trans people could change the gender marker on their driver’s license. Then-Gov. Alejandro García Padilla in August 2015 signed an executive order that mandated this change.

“This is long, long overdue,” Rodríguez told the Blade.

The lawsuit names Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Puerto Rican Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez and Puerto Rico Demographic Registry Director Wanda Llovet Díaz as defendants. A spokesperson for the Puerto Rico Justice Department has not returned the Blade’s request for comment.

Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit less than a week after Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz rescinded protections for his chamber’s trans employees. Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, and New York City Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito are among those who have sharply criticized Rivera.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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