May 24, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Puerto Rico House approves non-discrimination bill

Hector Maldonado, Puerto Rico, San Juan, gay news, Washington Blade

Bayamon, Puerto Rico, resident Hector Maldonado stands outside the island’s capital on May 16 before the Senate approved a non-discrimination bill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Puerto Rico House of Representatives on Friday approved two bills that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in the U.S. territory and add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the island’s domestic violence laws.

The voice votes on the two measures that each passed by a 29-22 vote margin took place at the end of a nearly three hour debate. Lawmakers had been scheduled to consider the bills on Thursday, but they adjourned after a marathon session that ended well after midnight.

The Puerto Rico Senate on May 16 approved the non-discrimination measure by a 15-11 vote margin.

“I can serve God without having to discriminate against anyone,” Rep. Lydia Méndez Silva of Sabana Grande said before she announced her support of the anti-discrimination bil.

Rep. Waldemar Quiles Rodríguez of Lares described the proposal to ban anti-LGBT discrimination as “bad, twisted and perverse.” Other opponents of the measures earlier on Friday launched an online campaign that urged lawmakers to vote against it and the domestic violence measure.

“We have expressed our disagreement with SB 238 (the anti-discrimination bill) and HB 488 (domestic violence measure,)” they said in a tweeted image that also contained Proverbs 24:12. “We have given just and solid reasons. We once again remind all lawmakers that God always has the final say.

Gov. Alejandro García Padilla met with lawmakers earlier on Thursday to secure additional support for the anti-discrimination bill that Sen. Ramón Nieves Pérez of San Juan introduced in January. The governor also supports the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the island’s domestic violence laws and the extension of second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians in Puerto Rico.

Gay Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin on Wednesday also urged lawmakers to support the anti-discrimination measure.

“The rights of gay people are human rights, and human rights are for everyone,”he wrote in an open letter to members of the Puerto Rico House. “The passage of [SB 238] would represent the respect of our brothers and sisters’ rights.”

García has said he will sign the anti-discrimination bill into law. The domestic violence measure will now go before the Senate.

“Today is a thrilling day in Puerto Rican history,” Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said after the vote. “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.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

7 Comments
  • Whether you side with the gay activists/allies or the religious/conservatives who believe that homosexuality is a sin (not all do), it seems all of us could benefit from forgiveness and reconciliation.
    All of us want to be happy, no one wants to suffer, if you act with that in mind, then it will be a good thing. I look forward to a time when our country can live with more ‘cultural peace’ and less ‘cultural war’. We will be a better country for it.

  • WEPA, WEPA, WEPA! HERE WE GO… ALE, ALE, ALE!

  • It's a Great Day in Puerto Rico!

  • The proposed law is one thing and what passed in the Puerto Rican House of Representatives is another. A monster after the many changes by conservative representatives and fundamentalist lobbyist. Get your facts straight. Copying press releases by Serrano isn’t responsible journalism. The ACLU of Puerto Rico can help you. Call them.

  • This is Pedro Julio Serrano’s farce. As I write the Puerto Rican Senate will soon vote for passage of bill 238. Only one Senator, a co-sponsor of the original bill, is denouncing the many changes detrimental to the LGBT community in Puerto Rico. Get your facts in order. Contact the Senator: HON. MARIA DE L. SANTIAGO NEGRON Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño 787-724-2030 EXT: 2704, 2736 [[URL REMOVED]]

  • Both bills passed and await the signature of the governor. Bill 238 is strictly about job protection and makes legal to discriminate in everything else. Housing, lending, ETC; now they can even ask you to leave a hospital. Yes, if you are a patient too. Thank very much Pedro Julio Serrano. Like Senator Santiago said: “Now you can work in the same place that kicked you out for being gay. Absurd.”

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