Puerto Rico Governor creates LGBT Affairs Advisory Council

by | Jul 11, 2017 | Puerto Rico | Comments

While Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s party is usually considered socially conservative, he took a big step forward last week in the interest of LGBT people in Puerto Rico. On July 5 Governor Rosselló signed an executive order on Facebook live Broadcast which created an LGBT Affairs Advisory Council. The purpose of the Advisory Council is to champion and protect LGBT rights on the island, and it will submit progress reports every six months. Of the move, Rosselló explained it was part of a push to make Puerto Rico more inclusive and diverse. “The times we live in require us to transform ourselves as a society and to do everything possible because Puerto Rico is a place of inclusion and equity, where respect for all our citizens is fostered. We aspire to live in a Puerto Rico where, regardless of our origin, beliefs, social status, sexual orientation, gender or age, we are able to respect each of the characteristics that make us who we are*.” said Governor Rosselló. He further explained, “This council will be working with some consolidated initiatives that have already been started to stop bullying in schools, to ensure that there is respect, so there isn’t discrimination in areas of economic and social development, and so we can collaborate on the provision of services with community organizations and nonprofits.”

While LGBT people in Puerto Rico do have some important rights, the council will work to help them receive equal rights. In Puerto Rico same-sex marriage is legal. Transgender people are also able to legally change their gender on their driver’s license, but not on their birth certificate. Transgender individuals working in the Puerto Rican Senate cannot dress in the clothing of the gender they identify with or use the corresponding bathrooms.

The majority of the members of the council have already been appointed. Johanne Vélez, an active member of the LGBT community, will chair the council. She will be joined by Wana Vazquez, the Secretary of the Department of Justice, Fernando Gil, the Secretary of the Department of Housing, a lawyer with civil rights experience, two members of organizations that offer services to the LGBT community, a health professional, and four more members will be appointed by the Governor.

Responses to the Governor’s move drew the attention of groups within Puerto Rico and internationally. While some groups hailed the move as a step forward for equal rights, the feedback wasn’t all positive from the LGBT community. The twitter account LGBT Puerto Rico, an account linked to the group LGBT Puerto Rico, tweeted a rather negative response.

The move even got international groups comments on twitter. Bisexual globe, a group that spreads awareness of bisexualism, tweeted it’s concerns over the council.

The director of the Puerto Rican chapter of Amnesty international, Liza Gallardo Martín, also expressed her concerns with the council. She said that while the move was a good start, it goes against what the legislature has been doing. Prominent Civil Rights Activist Pedro Julio Serrano has expressed similar sentiments. He has spoken out saying that he is “suspicious” of the new council because in his words the “Rosselló’s administration has taken LGBTT community rights away. To believe in the integrity of this LGBTT advisory council, the first thing its members would have to do is demand that Rosselló restore protections for trans students so they may dress and use the bathroom according to their gender identity. Likewise, they must demand to reestablish education with gender perspective in schools. If they don’t do it, this council is [a touch-up for] the homophobia in the New Progressive Party [NPP],” Serrano wrote in response to the announcement of the council.