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Christian Protests Target Puerto Rico's Rising LGBTQ Rights

The demonstration by a coalition of Christian groups [es] of distinct denominations known as “Puerto Rico Rises Up in Defense of the Family” that took place on February 18 highlights one of the country's most controversial current issues: LGBTQ rights.

Puerto Rico has a contradictory relationship when it comes to the LGBTQ community. On the one hand, it has figures that have publicly revealed their identities as gay men, such as superstar Ricky Martin, who has a huge fandom, and boxer Orlando Cruz, who, upon revealing he was gay, received a lot of praise for having had the courage to do so while being active in the sport. On the other hand, it also has figures like Antulio “Kobbo” Santarrosa, better known as La Comay, who, up until recently, was the producer and host of a widely watched local television program in Puerto Rico (in which homophobic language was quite common) and was forced to resign after a boycott was organized on Facebook due to some of his statements that insinuated that a victim of torture and murder got what he or she deserved for being in a place where there was “prostitution and homosexuality.”

The “Puerto Rico Rises Up” demonstration came about in the context of amendments proposed to Law 54 (Law of Prevention and Intervention in Domestic Violence) that looks to extend legal protection to couples who have a common law marriage and same-sex couples. The Supreme Court of Puerto Rico decided [es] that the law does not protect people in “adulterous” relationships nor people in relationships with the same sex.

It is estimated that around 200,000 people attended the demonstration that congregated in front of the Capitol Building of Puerto Rico (it is worth noting that on the other side of the Capitol there was another, smaller simultaneous demonstration in favor of the proposed amendments). Nonetheless, the Puerto Rican blogosphere shared reactions on the march. FulanoX [es] pointed out some planning inconsistencies for defenders of the family model composed of a man and a woman:

Vista aérea de la manifestación "Puerto Rico se Levanta" el 18 de febrero. Foto tomada de @YoDash en Twitter.

Aerial view of the “Puerto Rico Rises Up” demonstration on February 18. Photo taken from blog El Ñame.

Claro, no escuché a ningún religioso querer regresar a los harenes y concubinas. En la biblia, el Rey David, además de sus esposas, [...] Tenia concubinas. [...]

Este, como otros tantos ejemplos, demuestra que la defensa de la familia “tradicional” es una total hipocresía religiosa para justificar el miedo al cambio. Lo mismo sucedió cuando los sectores religiosos citaban a Pablo para justificar la discriminación hacia la mujer.

Of course I didn't hear a single religious individual wanting to return to harems and concubines. In the Bible, King David and his wives, [...] Had concubines. [...]

This, like countless examples, demonstrates that the defense of the “traditional” family is complete religious hypocrisy to justify fear of change. The same thing happened when religious sectors cited Paul to justify discrimination against women.

In her blog Sin mordazas [es], Ivonne Acosta provides an energetic criticism of the motives behind the demonstration:

Esos miles de fundamentalistas religiosos no les interesa que se entregue el aeropuerto, que haya miles de puntos de drogas, que la educación pública esté en su peor momento, que el crimen siga en aumento, que la basura nos arrope, que enfermarse sea un lujo no permitido y que haya tanta violencia. Les importa solamente la homosexualidad. Todo en nombre de un prejuicio hacia los que no encajan con sus ideas que ya van quedando más que atrasadas.

These thousands of religious fundamentalists are not interested in what is being delivered to airports, that there are thousands of drug trafficking points, that public education is in its worst state, that crime continues to rise, that waste is flooding us, that getting sick is a luxury not permitted and that there is so much violence. They are interested solely in homosexuality. All in the name of prejudice against those that do not fit into their ideas that increasingly become more and more backward.

Érika Fontánez Torres, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Puerto Rico, remains optimistic [es] that progress can be made:

A pesar de la marcha multitudinaria [...], mi impresión es que estamos justo avanzando hacia una sociedad en la que este tema y sus resistencia al cambio sea cosa del pasado y que este gobierno no tiene razones públicas (no se trata de lo que el Gobernador en su fuero interno quiera creer) para negar una reforma hacia la igualdad de derechos.

Despite the mass march [...], my impression is that we are in fact progressing towards a society in which this issue and its resistance to change are things of the past and that this government does not have public reasons (it is not about what the governor wants to believe deep down) to reject a reform for equal rights.

Fontánez Torres's optimism has its grounds. The Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, recently issued an executive order  [es] that extended the medical coverage the city government offers its employees to common law couples, independent of whether they are heterosexual or same sex couples.

Nevertheless, there are moments in which the arrival of changes necessary for a more equal society seem to take a bit more time. On February 20, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico decided in a 5-4 vote that a woman cannot adopt her same-sex partner's biological daughter unless the biological mother cedes her rights as a mother to her partner.

Mariana Iriarte Mastronardo, spokesperson for the feminist coalition Movimiento Amplio de Mujeres de Puerto Rico, points out the urgency of taking action [es] to create clear and precise legislation so that everyone remains protected equally:

De ninguna manera, podemos dejar que nuestros derechos y los derechos de nuestros hijos y nuestras hijas queden sujetos a interpretación. El Estado tiene el deber de protegernos a todas y a todos por igual.

Under no circumstances can we let our rights and the rights of our sons and daughters be subject to interpretation. The State is responsible for protecting all of us equally.

Writing for digital magazine Politic365, jeanvidal summarizes the situation in the following way:

Puerto Rico still has a long way to go on LGBT rights. The current administration is much friendlier to the LGBT community than the previous administration ever was. [...]

However, we must not forget that in a deeply (socially) conservative place like Puerto Rico, actions will speak much louder than words. Governor Garcia Padilla and his legislative majority have a golden opportunity to place Puerto Rico in the 21st Century of LGBT rights. The next four years will bear witness to that.

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