March 27, 2019 at 3:59 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Puerto Rico governor signs executive order banning conversion therapy for minors
Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló On March 27, 2019, signed an executive order that bans so-called conversion therapy for minors. (Image by Nicolas Raymond; courtesy Flickr)

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Wednesday signed an executive order that bans so-called conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” said Rosselló in a tweet that shows him signing the order. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering to LGBTT people.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after member of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party that he chairs, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors on the island. The Human Rights Campaign in a press release notes Puerto Rico, along with 15 states and D.C. now prohibit “LGBTQ minors from this despicable practice.”

“We commend Governor Rossello for his leadership in issuing this order to protect LGBTQ minors in Puerto Rico,” said HRC Senior Legislative Council Xavier Persad.

The Trevor Project in a press release notes children who undergo conversion therapy are twice as likely to attempt suicide than minors who haven’t been subjected to the practice. Sam Brinton, the organization’s head of Advocacy and Government Affairs, applauded Rosselló for signing the order.

“We are grateful for Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló for taking decisive action to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy,” said Brinton. “LGBTQ youth in crisis reach out to us every day, including young people from Puerto Rico, and this action will undoubtedly save young LGBTQ lives.” 

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, in a tweet described the order as “a step in the right direction.” Serrano also criticized the New Progressive Party-controlled Puerto Rico Legislature for “refusing to recognize the humanity of LGBTT people.”

Rosselló signed the executive order less than two years after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.

Homophobia, transphobia and conservative social and religious attitudes persist in the U.S. commonwealth, even though Puerto Rico’s nondiscrimination and hate crimes law includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Activists say LGBTI Puerto Ricans and people with HIV/AIDS are even more vulnerable to discrimination and violence since Maria.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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