Court Gives Gay-Rights (TV/TS/TG Rights) Activists Hope
July 17, 2000
633 N. Orange Ave., Orlando, FL 32801
By Iván Román, San Juan Bureau
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico Alexandra Torres Andino, who became a woman
24 years ago, can now officially say she is one.
In a split decision made public last week, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court permitted
Torres Andino to change her gender on her birth certificate to reflect the results of her
1976 sex-change operation. That move has gay-rights advocates cheering and conservative
religious activists fuming.
The case was unprecedented in Puerto Rico, but changing the name and sex on birth
certificates at the request of transsexuals has been done for years in many parts of the
U.S. mainland. "We have to respond to the times and to the social realities of the
day," said Ada Conde, president of the Human Rights Foundation, a local gay- and
She calls it a welcome sign for gay-rights supporters that the islands courts may
now be more willing to tip the balance in favor of the individuals right to privacy
vs. the states need to intervene.
Gay-rights opponents called it a "disastrous" decision that could lead to
fraud in public documents and get other parts of the gay-rights agenda in through the back
"Its changing the facts, that he was born a man and still is one," said
Carlos Sanchez, president of the conservative Pro-Life of Puerto Rico organization, an
outspoken opponent of gay rights.
Reacting to the controversy, Justice Secretary Angel Rotger Sabat would say only that
he will decide this week whether he is going to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider the
Andres Torres Andino, born in 1950, had the sex-change operation in 1976.. Almost 20
years later, in 1995, she went to court to have the name and gender changed on the birth
certificate. The courts allowed her to change only the name.
After six years of appeals, the Supreme Court decided to permit Torres Andino, now
married in New Jersey, to change the box indicating sex from "M" to
"F." So far, she hasnt reacted.
Calling transsexuality "an evident reality that demands a legal solution,"
the majority decision by Justice Antonio Negron Garcia states that forcing Torres Andino
to offer intimate explanations about her appearance when presenting a birth certificate
for job applications or passport renewals intrudes on the right to privacy.
The three dissident judges stated that a sex-change operation alters a man cosmetically
but not genetically and that this could open the door to actions now prohibited in Puerto
"This turns Andres Andino into a woman for all legal purposes, being able to get
married as a woman, since the marriage certificate would establish that in an official
manner," Justice Francisco Rebollo Lopez wrote.
Gay-rights advocates say the tough fight for gay marriage across the country proves one
thing does not lead to the other. States that allow the change on birth certificates have
passed referendums banning gay marriage.
"There are a lot of uninformed and unenlightened people on this issue, and a
Supreme Court justice is not exempt," said Eric Ferrero, a spokesperson for the
American Civil Liberties Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.
However, Ferrero acknowledged that this decision could
help in an appeal of a separate case set to go before the Puerto Rico Supreme Court this
week to have the islands sodomy laws declared unconstitutional. Lower courts
here have upheld those laws, which now exist only in Puerto Rico and 18 states.
"A logical conclusion is that once you recognize the
right to privacy and intimacy, the sodomy law topples on its own weight," Conde said.
Thats exactly what her opponents are afraid of.
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