A U.S. federal judge has ruled it unconstitutional to prohibit transgenders in Puerto Rico from modifying their birth certificates according to their gender identities.
The LGBTI community won the longstanding legal battle July 16 after U.S. District Judge Carmen Consuelo Cerezo overruled a policy from the government of Puerto Rico.
"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,'" Cerezo said.
In a statement from the Puerto Rican Department of Health, officials said: "The Demographic Registry of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico shall adopt the criteria of the Department of Transportation and Public Works' Request to Change Transgender Persons' Gender Marker."
The U.S. territory leaves Kansas, Ohio and Tennessee behind as it joins the 47 other states which give transgenders the right to amend their birth certificates as they see fit.
Activist Pedro Julio Serrano celebrated the triumph via social media, writing: "Historical! From today, trans people will be able to change their birth certificate so that they have the correct gender."
Professionals from the Lambda Legal Organization pursued the lawsuit on behalf of four transgender plaintiffs. According to Lambda, a third of U.S. citizens identify as transgender and forcing them to carry a document which neither reflects their chosen name nor gender opens the door to harassment, discrimination, attacks and hate crimes.
Daniela Arroyo-Gonzalez, one of the plaintiffs, said: "It is a great relief to finally have a birth certificate that truly reflects who I am. It makes me feel more secure and that my country finally recognizes me."
Lambda attorney Omar Gonzalez Pagan said a birth certificate is more than just a document to transgender people: it's a tool needed to travel, secure certain services, to work and live in safety and dignity.
"For years, Puerto Rico refused to recognize the identity of transgender Puerto Ricans. Now, after our historic victory in April, it will finally allow transgender people to correct their birth certificates so that they correctly reflect who they really are," said Gonzalez.
According to Puerto Rico's Office of Demographic Registry, people who want to amend their documents must fill out an application, present their passport and either their driver's license or a note from a clinical professional, and pay a fee of US$20 to complete the process.