LA PAZ (AFP) - Bolivia on Saturday (May 21) braved criticism from Christian churches to enact a gender identity law allowing transsexual and transgender people to change their name, sex and photo on official and private documents.
"Today we've put an end to a history of social proscription," Vice President Alvaro Garcia said as he enacted the legislation in place of President Evo Morales, who was visiting Cuba.
Transgender people "are a reality," he said. "It is social hypocrisy to deny their existence."
Bolivia's legislature passed the law on Friday, despite protests from Catholic and Evangelical churches demanding more debate.
The Catholic Church had said it rejected the text because it undermines family and societal "norms". An Evangelical church leader, pastor Sergio Gutierrez, had called for a national referendum on the issue.
But Garcia on Saturday pointed to an interview last year in which Pope Francis said transsexuals were also children of God and that they should be accepted by the Church as such.
"If the pope says that, who are we to judge and to deny someone who wants to modify their sexual identity?" Garcia asked.
LGBT associations welcomed the law.
"We can see we are in a new state able to integrate each of these people who were vilified and who had no rights," said Tamara Nunez, a representative of a transsexual collective.
"Identity is the first fundamental right."