SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A Puerto Rican Senate committee on Friday held a hearing on a bill that would extend second parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians in the U.S. territory.
“This Assembly must recognize the rights of minorities, even if this recognition is unpopular,” Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said during the Puerto Rico Senate Judiciary, Security and Veterans Committee hearing on Senate Bill 437 that Sen. Mari Tere González López of Mayaguëz introduced in March. “Our democracy is based on the protection of those minority groups from the possible abuse of the majority.”
The hearing took place nearly three months after the territory’s Supreme Court narrowly upheld a ban on gay second parent adoptions in response to the case of Dr. Ángeles Acosta Rodríguez who sought to adopt the child her partner of 25 years, Dr. Carmen Milagros Vélez Vega, conceived through in vitro fertilization.
The dozens of SB 437 hearing supporters who attended the hearing gave Vélez a standing ovation at the end of her testimony.
“Us three are a Puerto Rican family, one among many,” Vélez said as Acosta and their 12-year-old daughter, Juliana María Acosta Vélez Vega, sat next to her. “We are here, not for the sake of receiving special treatment, nor to seek a privilege, but to present ourselves as citizens and daughters of this country and to ask for that which is granted to Puerto Rican families and children, the right to a family and the protections that that includes.”
Representatives of the Psychological Association of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Mental Health and Addiction Administration and the Puerto Rico Department of Justice are among those who also support of SB 437. The Archdiocese of San Juan and other groups remain opposed to the measure.
The SB 437 hearing took place a day after the Puerto Rican Senate approved a sweeping bill that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and government services.
Gov. Alejandro García Padilla supports both SB 437 and the non-discrimination measure that Sen. Ramón Nieves Pérez of San Juan introduced in January.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on Monday signed two executive orders that ban anti-LGBT discrimination against the Puerto Rican capital’s municipal employees and mandate the city’s police department to equally enforce the island’s domestic laws regardless of the alleged victim’s sexual orientation.