Metro Weekly

Puerto Rico’s governor signs a new civil code eliminating LGBTQ protections

Critics claim Wanda Vazquez consulted with Christian lawyers, and not LGBTQ advocates, before approving changes

puerto rico, lgbtq, governor, protections

Wanda Vazquez – Photo: Facebook

Earlier this week, Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez signed a new civil code that overhauls a series of laws regulating various rights, including LGBTQ rights.

Among the 130 amendments in the newly approved code were provisions that eliminate the ability of transgender individuals to change the name and gender marker on their birth certificates — even though Vázquez claims that the process for amending a birth certificate remains the same — and removes any explicit mention of legal protections for LGBTQ people that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The new code also opens the door to potentially restricting or banning the right to an abortion by bestowing newfound rights onto the unborn.

“We will never have a civil code with 100% consensus,” Vázquez said, noting that the code can always be revised in the future.

Vázquez claimed that she had consulted numerous legal experts and that the changes to the code had been part of a nearly two-decade-long process — something that opponents of the new changes say is patently false, claiming that Vázquez kowtowed to Christian lawyers and the religious right while ignoring concerns raised by minority groups, including the island’s LGBTQ community.

Related: Court orders Puerto Rico to issue accurate birth certificates to transgender people

Critics also argued that lawmakers in both houses of the legislature, who crafted the 130 amendment in the new code, should have held public hearings on the proposed changes before they were approved, reports The Washington Post.

“This Code has no head or tail. They wanted to satisfy God and the devil, and they ended up making no one happy,” Pedro Julio Serrano, of the Broad Committee for the Search for Equity (CABE), an LGBTQ rights group, said in a statement.

Serrano accused Vázquez of lying about the new code and its contents, calling her support of it “disastrous” for trampling on the rights of various groups and eliminating nearly all references to the LGBTQ community, and predicted that the government would be sued over the changes in the code.

“Wanda Vázquez did not learn anything with the exit of Ricardo Rosselló after his misogynist and homophobic chat,” Serrano said, referring to actions that led to the resignation of the island’s previous governor. “This is a people tired of the abuse of women and LGBTTIQ+ people. Opposition to Civil Code has been overwhelming. If you have not understood the error she just committed, you will very soon understand, ‘Well this town does not forget.'”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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