The US Supreme Court unanimously found in favor of Estrella Santos-Zacaria, a trans woman from Guatemala seeking asylum in the US, in a landmark ruling. Santos-Zacaria had faced physical abuse and death threats in Guatemala as a result of her gender identity and sexual orientation, and she worried for her safety if she returned.
Santos-Zacaria came to the United States as a youngster but was deported in 2008. She spent the most of the years that followed in Mexico, but she chose to try to return to the United States after being raped by a Mexican gang. When she attempted to re-enter the United States in 2018, immigration agents caught her.
Initially, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals denied her plea to remain in the United States, claiming that her situation did not fit the criteria for requesting asylum. However, the Supreme Court overruled that judgment, with all justices agreeing.
Santos-Zacaria was referred to by her preferred pronouns and name in the formal opinion issued by Ketanji Brown Jackson, a huge step forward for the trans community. Justices John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel Alito signed the unanimous judgment.
IMPORTANCE OF RULING
The inclusion of inclusive wording in the court’s judgment is a remarkable gesture, especially at a time when anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is on the rise across the United States. This year alone, over 300 anti-LGBTQ+ measures have been passed, many of which target the trans community. For example, Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation restricts instructors from using trans children’s chosen names and pronouns, while another statute prohibits trans persons from using public toilets that do not correspond to their gender on their birth certificate.
The ruling in favor of Santos-Zacaria by the United States Supreme Court is a huge victory for the trans community and a step toward more equality and acceptance. The court’s use of inclusive wording in the verdict sends a powerful message of solidarity to the trans community amid a period of growing prejudice.