The future for LGBT individuals in Puerto Rico finally looks more promising after Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla signed a bill that bans employment discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. On Wednesday, Gov. Padilla said that by signing the bill and getting it approved by legislators, he has accomplished the obligations for a good Christian.
Puerto Rico has gradually become a more LGBT-friendly place in the Caribbean region, where anti-gay hate crimes and harassment are common. The governing Popular Democratic Party has been pushing to pass the bill to end discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation since early March. While Gov. Padilla successfully passed the anti-discrimination bill on Wednesday, his efforts can be traced further back to January, when he began his term as the island's governor.
Padilla began his pro-LGBT campaign by first signing an order to extend health insurance coverage to same-sex partners of workers in his government, regardless of gender. Immediately after that, Pedro Rossello, the former governor of Puerto Rico and a staunch conservative, expressed his unconditional support for same-sex marriage in February. Rossello was the governor who once signed a law to prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages performed abroad.
“We’re in a period where it’s important to talk about human rights,” Rossello said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Longtime activists also begin to see a swing in public opinion on issues like same-sex marriage and equality in general. To them, publicly discussing LGBT-related issues would have been unthinkable several decades before. Puerto Rico also recently witnessed its first prosecution of anti-gay hate crimes by the Justice Department. Signs like these indicate inevitable trend toward equality for the island's LGBT community.
Ricky Martin, the iconic gay singer from Puerto Rico, also called on the Puerto Rican government to extend several rights to the LGBT community.
“The same rights for each and every citizen of Puerto Rico, that’s what we are asking for, and that’s what we hope to achieve, the country of justice and peace we want,” Martin said in a press release published on his website. “Puerto Rico has to join all the countries of the world that are at the forefront in human rights and equality.”
However, like its counterparts in many states, Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court reconfirmed the law that bans same-sex couples from the rights to adoption in March. Religious and more conservative groups still have a hard time accepting the ever-accelerating pace of equality. Around 200,000 people from church groups rallied on the street to express their opposition to including same-sex couples under domestic-violence law. The march’s organizer told the AP in March that in order to have a healthy society, marriage and traditional family value need to be strengthened.
Despite this opposition, Gov. Padilla’s success in passing both the non-discrimination bill and the inclusion of same-sex couples into domestic-violence law show that this national movement for equality won't be stopped easily, especially those who are determined to push LGBT individuals back into the dark. Again, it’s just a matter of time before the concept of same-sex marriage is as simple and obvious as anything else in the world.