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November 12, 2019 at 7:01 am PST | by Michael K. Lavers
Ricky Martin sharply criticizes proposed changes to Puerto Rico Civil Code
HRC National Dinner, gay news, Washington Blade
Ricky Martin attends the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner with his family on Sept. 30, 2019. The openly gay Puerto Rican singer has sharply criticized efforts to amend Puerto Rico’s Civil Code. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ricky Martin is among those who have sharply criticized proposed amendments to Puerto Rico’s Civil Code that would rescind LGBTQ rights in the U.S. commonwealth.

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBTQ advocacy group, told the Los Angeles Blade transgender Puerto Ricans would no longer be able to change the gender marker on their birth certificates if the Puerto Rico Senate approves the proposed amendments. Serrano said another revision under consideration would “open the door to allow churches to discriminate” against LGBTQ Puerto Ricans based on their religious beliefs.

Serrano noted another amendment would limit abortion rights in Puerto Rico.

The Puerto Rico House of Representatives earlier this year approved the amendments. The Senate is expected to vote on them as early as Wednesday.

Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, who is president of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, is known for his vocal opposition to LGBTQ rights.

“We must keep in mind the Senate’s motives to amend the Civil Code,” tweeted Martin on Nov. 7. “Lawmakers are obsessed with provoking a setback in the fight for equality the LGBTQ community has led.”

Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups that includes Puerto Rico Para Tod@s and the Puerto Rico Trans Youth Coalition, in a letter they sent to Rivera on Nov. 8 urged him to postpone the vote on the amendments.

“The organizations and professionals who signed this letter have objections to the content of the said bill,” reads the letter, referring to the amendments. “It contains provisions that are harmful to civil rights in the country and to the stability of our legal system.”

Former governor resigned after homophobic, misogynistic messages became public

Former Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who is a member of the New Progressive Party, on July 24 resigned after a series of homophobic and misogynistic messages between him and members of his administration became public. Martin was among the hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans who participated in anti-Rosselló protests that took place in San Juan, the island’s capital, and across the U.S. commonwealth.

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017. LGBTQ Puerto Ricans are more susceptible to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the aftermath of the hurricane that killed more than 3,000 people in the U.S. commonwealth.

Workers install a roof onto a Hurricane Maria-damaged house in the Candelero Arriba neighborhood of Humacao, Puerto Rico, on May 26, 2018. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Blade on Monday reached out to a spokesperson for Gov. Wanda Vázquez, a member of the New Progressive Party who took office in August, for comment.

El Nuevo Día, a Puerto Rican newspaper, on Monday reported Vázquez told reporters she will “examine the final bill, and ensure that nobody’s rights are violated as a matter of law.”

“We are going to listen to everyone, we are going to evaluate these claims,” said Vázquez, according to el Nuevo Día. “We are going to see the final bill and at the end of the day we will make the determination.”

Wilfred Labiosa, executive director of Waves Ahead and SAGE Puerto Rico, earlier on Monday criticized the Senate’s leadership over the amendments.

“The way that this government is working is no different from that lead by past Gov. Rosselló,” Labiosa told the Blade. “They didn’t do any public hearings and just want to follow the religious conservative agenda without taking into consideration women and LGBT rights.”

“They follow the money,” added Labiosa. “They want to stay and control everything.”

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

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