Colombia’s highest court recognises non-binary people in landmark ruling

Houndreds of members of the trans community during the annual 'Yo Marcho Trans' protest

Colombia’s highest court has ruled that non-binary people should have their gender legally recognised in a landmark ruling set to ripple through Latin America.

On Tuesday (1 March), the Constitutional Court of Colombia, the supreme constitutional court of Colombia in Bogotá, ruled that the government must introduce a third gender marker option on official identity documents.

In a decision obtained by AFP, the government must make it possible for “non-binary people… to opt for this category, with the same guarantees of those who identify officially as binary”.

Central to the case was Dani Garcia, a 40-year-old person assigned male at birth who transitioned two decades ago. In 2019, Garcia asked for the national registry to issue them a new identity document with their gender marker listed as “indeterminate”.

The National Civil Agency, a government agency that issues documents and stores citizen statistics, refused Garcia’s request. But Garcia took their request for legal recognition to the courts, with the top appellate court siding with Garcia.

The introduction of a third gender marker for documents is, the court said, an “initial step towards effective social participation” for countless trans, non-binary and gender-nonconforming Colombians.

In Colombia, residents over the age of 18 are issued a citizenship card known as a cédula de iudadanía. Issued for free by the National Civil Agency, the ID number is used at all times, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The card is crucial to day-to-day affairs, such as voting, travel within the country and applying for work.

It comes after Mexico issued the nation’s first birth certificate that legally recognised a citizen as non-binary, joining the likes of the US, Argentina and Canada, among others that have similar policies.

The central Mexican state of Guanajuato issued the certificate to Fausto Martinez, a 26-year-old law student, after a year-long battle for the right to list “NB” on their official identification documents.

“I have always said that what is named does not exist,” Martinez wrote on Twitter. “For this reason, the transience of this fact, the Mexican state recognises that non-binary people exist and with that, we are subject to rights and obligations.”