Ropes & Gray Attorneys Challenge Puerto Rico’s Anti-Transgender Birth Certificate Policy

In The News
April 6, 2017
R. Daniel O'Connor ,
Richard D. Batchelder, Jr.

Ropes & Gray, Lambda Legal and San Juan, Puerto Rico-based Celina Romany-Siaca today filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four transgender Puerto Ricans and the LGBTQ rights organization Puerto Rico Para Tod@s to compel the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to allow transgender individuals to correct the gender marker on their birth certificates to reflect their sex based on their gender identity.

Puerto Rico categorically prohibits changes to the gender marker on birth certificates, even for those whose birth certificate does not match their gender identity. Puerto Rico’s birth certificate policy is also at odds with the federal government’s policies and with those in 46 of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

In the lawsuit, Ropes & Gray, Lambda Legal and Celina Romany-Siaca represent three transgender women – Daniela Arroyo, Joanna Cifredo and Victoria Rodríguez Roldán – and one transgender man, J.G., identified only by his initials, as well as Puerto Rico Para Tod@s.

The lawsuit argues that denying transgender Puerto Ricans the ability to obtain accurate birth certificates violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. In addition, the lawsuit argues that forcing transgender Puerto Ricans through their birth certificates to identify with a gender that is not who they are violates their right to free speech under the First Amendment.

“We plan to bring our experience litigating LGBTQ discrimination issues in other jurisdictions to bear here as we seek to enforce our clients’ important, basic rights in this case,” said Ropes & Gray business & securities litigation partner Dan O’Connor, who is leading the firm’s effort. The Ropes & Gray team also includes business & securities litigation partner Richard Batchelder.

Ropes & Gray has been recognized for its work assisting LGBTQ individuals with legal questions across the U.S.; and, a Ropes & Gray attorney, Doug Hallward-Driemeier argued the landmark marriage equality case Obergefell v. Hodges before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015. Learn more about the firm’s dedicated pro bono efforts here.