A district court judge recently ruled that transgender Puerto Ricans can update their birth certificates, something they were previously unable to do.
In a March 28 ruling, Judge Carmen Consuelo Cerezo determined that denying transgender residents accurate birth certificates was unconstitutional. Her decision came after a year-long legal case, filed by Lambda Legal on behalf of three transgender Puerto Ricans, to challenge the U.S. territory’s ban on gender marker corrections on birth certificates.
On April 20, Cerezo issued her official legal opinion, and her poignant words gave us chills.
The right to identify our own existence lies at the heart of one’s humanity. And so, we must heed their voices: “the woman that I am,” “the man that I am.” Plaintiffs know they are not fodder for memoranda legalese. They have stepped up for those whose voices, debilitated by raw discrimination, have been hushed into silence. They cannot wait for another generation, hoping for a lawmaker to act.
Judge writes opinion on decision allowing trans people be permitted to change the gender marker on their birth certificates to accurately reflect their identity. "And so, we must heed their voices: “the woman that I am,” “the man that I am.” —Judge Cerezo #PuertoRico #LGBT pic.twitter.com/XBQAA8zUT3
— LGBT Puerto Rico (@lgbtpr) April 20, 2018
She likened the three plaintiffs to Linda Brown of the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education suit that desegregated American schools: “They, like [Brown], took the steps to the courthouse to demand what is due: Their right to exist, to live more, and die less.”
In a statement, plaintiff Daniela Arroyo González called the ruling “an important step forward in the fight for the rights of transgender people in Puerto Rico.”
“It is a huge relief to finally have an accurate birth certificate that is a true reflection of who I am,” she added. “It makes me feel safer and like my country finally recognizes me, respects me, and protects my identity as a woman.”
Cerezo is the first Puerto Rican to serve on a federal bench and first female federal judge in Puerto Rico. Her ruling comes more than a month after Lambda Legal successfully challenged a similar ban in Idaho.