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Puerto Rico LGBTQ+ Rights in Question After Civil Code Changes

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Under the veil of secrecy, legislators have crafted and rushed through a new civil code for the island of Puerto Rico. Having passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the legislation is awaiting the signature of Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced. But, advocates warn that amendments to the bill made without public debate and adequate time for analyzing could roll back LGBTQ+ rights.

On Wednesday, the Human Rights Campaign issued a release condemning the proposed code. 

“Puerto Ricans deserve a fair, transparent ratification process of their Civil Code, not a rushed, backroom deal by the legislature,” wrote HRC President Alphonso David. “We condemn anti-equality leaders’ furtive attempts to use this process as a way to target LGBTQ Puerto Ricans. The secrecy surrounding the codes and the legislative process is particularly troubling in the context of the [ongoing] global pandemic, which has critically hampered the ability for citizens to participate and make their voices heard. Governor Wanda Vazquez must stand up for LGBTQ Puerto Ricans and for democracy by slowing down this process and allowing all to participate in shaping the future of the island.”

According to reports, "controversial amendments" to the civil code were approved "less than 10 minutes" after being presented and without public debate in the Senate. At about 600 pages, many advocates for the rights of women, queer and trans people as well as other marginalized folks haven't had time to go through it in full. Today it was also approved in the House without any discussion. 

Previously, there have already been concerns surrounding the legislation. In March, Lamda Legal called the proposed law flawed and warned that it would roll back rights of trans folks to correct their birth certificates. Though some have said those concerns have since been rectified, the organization does not agree.

"While we appreciate the inclusion of language recognizing the right of transgender people to correct their birth certificates, we urge Puerto Rico’s Governor not to sign the new Civil Code into law," Lambda Legal said in a statement. "It is flawed, procedurally and substantively.”

Celebrities like Bad Bunny and Ricky Martin have also come out against the process. Martin has specifically called on Garced to give the code all of the attention it needs and ensure that it does not roll back rights for LGBTQ+ people. 

This is the first time Martin has gotten involved in Puerto Rican politics. In 2019 he helped to oust the then governor. He also spoke out about the civil code late last year.

RELATED | Lawmaker Throws Punches Over Costa Rica's Marriage Equality

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