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Puerto Rico on the Brink of History for LGBT People

LGBT rights are advancing in Puerto Rico as a consequence of decades of activism and a change in government last November. This week will be crucial and historic, with the House set to vote on a sweeping nondiscrimination measure and a bill for same sex-couples to be protected under the domestic violence law.

People celebrating nondiscrimination bill in Puerto Rico holding a sign and flag

Last week in a 15-11 vote, the Puerto Rican Senate approved the nondiscrimination bill that protects LGBT people in employment, housing, public accommodations, governmental services and private entities. The House is slated to take up the bill on Thursday.

Also, a bill to amend the domestic violence law in Puerto Rico to include protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status will also be voted on by the House and the Senate this week. Gov. Alejandro García Padilla has vowed to sign both into laws.

In Puerto Rico, the LGBT community has come a long way. From having more than 40 LGBT people murdered in the past 10 years to the passage in the Senate last week of the nondiscrimination bill. From the Puerto Rican Supreme Court denying adoption to same-sex couples to a Senate hearing last Friday on a bill that will allow it. From an ugly and massive opposition from the fundamentalists religious groups to the overwhelming support of the Puerto Rican people (80 percent of the testimonies in the hearings were pro-LGBT and 70 percent of Puerto Ricans favor equal rights for LGBT people according to the latest poll), including a march in which thousands filled the San Juan streets.

The Task Force has been at the forefront of this struggle for the past seven years, including speaking out against hate crimes and anti-LGBT violence; standing in solidarity with the Puerto Rican LGBT community; meeting with Congressman Luis Gutierrez to ask for support in this struggle against anti-LGBT violence; and the Task Force’s National Religious Leadership Roundtable convening in Puerto Rico to express support.

The truth is that the Task Force has been involved in the struggle in Puerto Rico for the past seven years and we will continue to be there until we achieve full equality for the Puerto Rican LGBT community. We’re on the brink of making history.