Someone sent me an email, asking if a marriage is rendered void when the spouse undergoes gender reassignment surgery, also called sex-change operation. The question reads: “If a man and a woman marry in the Philippines and the man later undergoes gender reassignment, is the marriage automatically void? I have been unable to find specific information and would very much appreciate your help.”
First, a detour. There is already a court decision rejecting a petition for a change of name based on sex-change operation. According to the Supreme Court, before a person can legally change his given name, he must present proper or reasonable cause or any compelling reason justifying such change. He must also show that he will be prejudiced by the use of his true and official name. In this case, he failed to show, or even allege, any prejudice that he might suffer as a result of using his true and official name. The ONLY reason given by the petition was gender reassignment. However, a change of name does not alter one’s legal capacity or civil status. The law does not sanction a change of first name on the ground of sex reassignment.
A sex-change operation, in the absence of any specific law, can’t support a petition for change of name. There is more reason to conclude that sex reassignment surgery can’t support a petition for annulment or declartion of nullity of marriage.
The law enjoins the State to project the family and the institution of marriage. A marriage can only be annulled or declared void (or a valid foreign divorce decree recognized) by order of a competent Philippine court, and EXCLUSIVELY for the reasons/grounds enumerated by law. Gender reassignment is not one of the grounds enumerated by law. It may be a manifestation of homosexuality, but this is a ground for legal separation, not annulment (see differences between legal separation and annulment). Gender reassignment may also be considered, together with other facts, as a manifestation of psychological incapacity, which can be used as a ground to declare a marriage void in accordance with Article 36 of the Family Code of the Philippines. However, the proper petition must be filed in court to have the marriage declared void by reason of psychological incapacity. Gender reassignment, by itself, is not a ground to annul a marriage or declare it as void.