Last edited: November 23, 2003

Puerto Rico OKs T* Birth Certificate

PlanetOut, July 28, 2000

Transwoman Alexandra Torres Andino won a 4 - 3 split decision from Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court in mid-July allowing her to change the gender on her birth certificate in what’s believed to be the first case of its kind there, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Torres Andino, 50, underwent sex reassignment in 1976 and began her quest in the courts in 1995. At first she was allowed only to change her name, but after six years of appeals she can now move the checkmark from the "M" box to the "F."

The majority of the court was sympathetic to the invasion of privacy Torres Andino experienced in identifying herself for jobs and passport renewals, and Justice Antonio Negron Garcia wrote for the majority that transsexuality is "an evident reality that demands a legal solution." Dissenting Justice Francisco Rebollo Lopez wrote, "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" — and that was exactly the dissenters’ objection, since they view Torres Andino’s marriage to a man as a violation of Puerto Rico’s marriage and sodomy laws. In fact Torres Andino is married, now living in New Jersey.

The American Civil Liberties Union is already fighting a separate and so far unsuccessful legal battle to have the sodomy law struck down, and believes the Supreme Court’s recognition of Torres Andino’s privacy rights bodes well. But the larger society is just as divided as the court, as gay and lesbian groups like San Juan’s Human Rights Foundation welcome the ruling for Torres Andino and conservative groups like Pro-Life of Puerto Rico denounce it. The government may ask the court to reconsider.

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