Puerto Rico’s governor has signed a new Civil Code that leaves out LGBT+ protections despite a rise in LGBT+ murders.
Campaigners have criticized Governor Wanda Vázquez for her response to the killing of at least 10 LGBT+ Puerto Ricans in 2019 and 2020. The deaths include five transgender Puerto Ricans since the beginning of 2020.
Despite this, the new Civil Code makes no mention of LGBT+ people on the island, which is a US territory.
Pedro Julio Serrano is founder of LGBT+ social justice campaign Puerto Rico Para [email protected] He said:
‘They removed the discrimination bans in order not to include sexual orientation and gender identity. When they gouge LGBTTIQ+ people’s eyes out, they gouge everyone’s eyes out.’
The Catholic Church still dominates Puerto Rico, making the island relatively conservative.
Puerto Rican LGBT+ people have access to access to equal marriage and the right to change gender.
However, the territory does not protect them from hate speech or discrimination in employment, goods and services.
Possible ‘rollback of our rights’
Carmen Yulín Cruz, the major of San Juan, who Serrano works closely with as an advisor, also criticized Vázquez.
Cruz said: ‘With this signature to the Civil Code, the governor makes it clear that she has no words. And worse, she creates the scenario for a rollback of our rights.’
Meanwhile Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David also joined in the criticism:
‘Puerto Rico’s governor signed into law significant revisions to the island’s civil codes that shamefully ignore the urgent calls of local advocates to explicitly include vital, comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ residents.
‘The government has failed to carry out its primary duty of ensuring the safety and well-being of all Puerto Ricans, including LGBTQ Puerto Ricans.
‘This year, there has been an alarming uptick in killings of LGBTQ people on the island.
‘The government should be doubling down on passing legal protections for the LGBTQ community and sending a clear message that LGBTQ people’s lives are worthy of equal dignity and respect.’
The Human Rights Campaign is also concerned the island didn’t give enough time to debate the Civil Code. David said they rushed it through during the pandemic.
Governor Vázquez, affiliated as a Republican, took over the job in August last year.
That followed the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rosselló. He quit in July after misogynistic and homophobic messages between him and staff members emerged.
They included Rosselló making an apparent death threat against Mayor Cruz. He also joked about Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island.