Today, HRC called on Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló to veto a bill passed by the Senate on Sunday that could allow anyone who claims a religious exemption the right to discriminate against the Commonwealth’s LGBTQ community and visitors.
“This legislation would allow a dangerous license to discriminate, putting LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities directly in harm’s way,” said Sarah Warbelow, HRC Legal Director. “Leaders in Puerto Rico should focus on bringing its citizens together — not on measures that would cause harm and discrimination.”
The bill, a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) similar to the bill Vice President Pence disastrously signed into law as governor of Indiana, would empower individuals to pick and choose which laws they want to follow and allow an individual to sue government actors, including teachers, firefighters and police officers, if that individual believes their religious rights were being violated by a government action. Recently, a for profit business owner in Michigan used a RFRA to justify firing a transgender woman when she informed her boss about her plans to transition. This stands in stark contrast to Puerto Rico’s progress on LGBTQ equality in recent years, including laws banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination and adding gender identity and sexual orientation to statutes addressing domestic violence, as well as executive orders prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in hospitals and allowing transgender persons to change their gender marker on driver’s licenses.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, currently focused on Hurricane Maria recovery efforts in her city, stated: “Discrimination–whatever it may be–disguises hatred, fear, and ignorance. There will never be a justification to hide it behind any law.”
HRC notes that nearly half the 49 victims of the deadly Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 were LGBTQ Puerto Ricans, and calls on all Americans to come together and help their fellow citizens in Puerto Rico.