By Adam Brinklow
Puerto Rico may be only 3,500 square miles altogether, but it’s still managed to become a big part in the worldwide struggle for LGBT rights. In one corner there’s Senator Maria Gonzalez Lopez, local legislative locus for all things free and equal in queer circles, and in the opposite corner there’s the Roman Catholic Church, still the prime mover in this U.S. territory.
Here’s the scorecard for anyone who hasn’t been following along: Gonzalez Lopez proposed two bills this month, the first overturning a ban on adoption by same-sex couples and the other adding materials about gender issues and sexual discrimination to public school curricula. “It’s imperative that this legislative assembly recognize and not deny existing families their rights,” reads the first bill. Gonzalez Lopez said in an interview with the Associated Press that homophobic policies are hurting Puerto Rico both socially and economically.
It’s already been a banner year for Gonzalez Lopez and supporters, as the legislature passed laws banning LGBT discrimination in the workplace and extending domestic violence protections to same-sex couples. If the two new proposals pass, it’ll be one for the record books.
But it’s a tough row to hoe: Puerto Rico is as much 85% Roman Catholic, according to the CIA World Factbook, and the opposition show no signs of budging. “There are certain issues that are non-negotiable,” Cesar Vazquez Muniz, spokesman for Puerto Rico Pro Family, one of the island’s largest Christian-dominated political groups, said in a public statement. “They are trying to change the values of this country.”
PRPF plans to propose two different constitutional bans on same-sex marriage (perhaps in the belief that one should always carry a spare?), and in February, PinkNews reported that 200,000 people rallied against gay rights in San Juan.
Puerto Rico’s newly elected governor, Alejandro García Padilla, split the difference by promising to protect LGBT rights but copping out on the marriage issue. “My government is a government of inclusion. The rights that are guaranteed to people are those we have to look for and secure for all human beings,” he told Univision in February. But “as for marriage, I do not agree that it should be anything except between man and woman.”
It’s a shame: Puerto Rico makes a great honeymoon locale. Maybe in ten years?