By Cathy Kristofferson, May 29, 2013
Today Governor Alejandro García Padilla of Puerto Rico signed into law two LGBT bills recently passed by the island’s Senate and House. The two bills, which protect LGBT people in employment, housing, governmental services and public accommodations, and adds sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to domestic violence laws, passed the House 29-22 following earlier Senate approval 15-11 and hours and hours of debate.
Originally bans in discrimination in commercial transactions, property rentals, public transportation and other circumstances were proposed but those clauses were removed after heavy opposition by religious groups.
Gay rights are advancing in the island nation thanks to years of advocacy work and a change in government last November. Opposition has long stood due in Puerto Rico due to the strong influence of the Roman Catholic Church and socially conservative Protestants. Also, the island’s status as a United States commonwealth does have influence over the legal rights of its LGBT citizens which are covered by some U.S. legislation such as the Matthew Shepherd Act.
Puerto Rico’s anti-sodomy law, upheld as constitutional by its own Supreme Court, was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Lawrence v. Texas decision when it declared unconstitutional all state and territorial statutes penalizing consensual sodomy.
Showing how far the island nation has come, Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force spoke of the bills’ passage:
“A decade ago, LGBT Puerto Ricans were criminals under the sodomy law, today we’re second-class citizens and when this bill is signed into law, we will be closer to achieving the first-class citizenship that we deserve. Equality is inevitable. Puerto Rico will be for all.”
Congratulations LGBT Puerto Ricans – welcome to your first-class citizenship!
What I want to know is, when will the U.S. get a ‘sweeping’ federal non-discrimination bill protecting all our nation’s LGBT people in employment, housing, governmental services and public accommodations so we can be first-class citizens too?