Ropes & Gray Secures Summary Judgment Victory as Federal Court in Puerto Rico Strikes Down Anti-Transgender Birth Certificate Policy

In The News
April 5, 2018
R. Daniel O'Connor ,
Richard D. Batchelder, Jr.

On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico granted summary judgement in a federal lawsuit, Arroyo Gonzalez et al v. Rossello Nevares, eliminating a discriminatory policy categorically barring transgender individuals in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico from correcting the gender marker on their birth certificates to reflect their sex based on their gender identity.

The court will issue a separate opinion, but cited in the order that the forced disclosure of plaintiffs’ transgender status violates their fundamental right to informational privacy under the First Amendment. The opinion will also provide a path of recourse to correct the gender marker on plaintiffs’ birth certificates to accurately reflect their gender identity, without revealing their transgender status.

“We are gratified with the court’s decision, as it is reflects an important moment for transgender individuals in Puerto Rico and throughout the continental U.S. We are grateful to these individuals, and to our pro bono partners, for their tireless efforts to defend their identities and to right this Constitutional injustice,” said Dan O’Connor, a member of the Ropes & Gray pro bono team.

Last April, Ropes & Gray and Lambda Legal filed a first-of-its-kind federal lawsuit on behalf of four transgender Puerto Ricans and the LGBTQ rights organization Puerto Rico Para Tod@s arguing that denying transgender Puerto Ricans the ability to obtain accurate birth certificates violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Notably, Puerto Rico’s birth certificate policy was also at odds with the federal government’s policies and with those of 46 of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

The Ropes & Gray team is led by litigation and enforcement partner Daniel O’Connor and includes litigation and enforcement partner Richard Batchelder.

Ropes & Gray has been recognized for its work assisting LGBTQ individuals with legal questions across the U.S. This development comes on the heels of the firm’s pro bono work in the case McLaughlin v. McLaughlin, in which the U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to review a ruling of the Arizona Supreme Court, preserving the equal treatment of same- and opposite-sex spouses. Learn more about the firm’s dedicated pro bono efforts here.