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Puerto Rico House approves non-discrimination bill

Hector Maldonado, Puerto Rico, San Juan, gay news, Washington Blade

Bayamon, Puerto Rico, resident Hector Maldonado stands outside the island’s capital on May 16 before the Senate approved a non-discrimination bill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Puerto Rico House of Representatives on Friday approved two bills that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in the U.S. territory and add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the island’s domestic violence laws.

The voice votes on the two measures that each passed by a 29-22 vote margin took place at the end of a nearly three hour debate. Lawmakers had been scheduled to consider the bills on Thursday, but they adjourned after a marathon session that ended well after midnight.

The Puerto Rico Senate on May 16 approved the non-discrimination measure by a 15-11 vote margin.

“I can serve God without having to discriminate against anyone,” Rep. Lydia Méndez Silva of Sabana Grande said before she announced her support of the anti-discrimination bil.

Rep. Waldemar Quiles Rodríguez of Lares described the proposal to ban anti-LGBT discrimination as “bad, twisted and perverse.” Other opponents of the measures earlier on Friday launched an online campaign that urged lawmakers to vote against it and the domestic violence measure.

“We have expressed our disagreement with SB 238 (the anti-discrimination bill) and HB 488 (domestic violence measure,)” they said in a tweeted image that also contained Proverbs 24:12. “We have given just and solid reasons. We once again remind all lawmakers that God always has the final say.

Gov. Alejandro García Padilla met with lawmakers earlier on Thursday to secure additional support for the anti-discrimination bill that Sen. Ramón Nieves Pérez of San Juan introduced in January. The governor also supports the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the island’s domestic violence laws and the extension of second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians in Puerto Rico.

Gay Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin on Wednesday also urged lawmakers to support the anti-discrimination measure.

“The rights of gay people are human rights, and human rights are for everyone,”he wrote in an open letter to members of the Puerto Rico House. “The passage of [SB 238] would represent the respect of our brothers and sisters’ rights.”

García has said he will sign the anti-discrimination bill into law. The domestic violence measure will now go before the Senate.

“Today is a thrilling day in Puerto Rican history,” Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said after the vote. “A decade ago, LGBT Puerto Ricans were criminals under the sodomy law, today we’re second-class citizens and when this bill is signed into law, we will be closer to achieving the first-class citizenship that we deserve. Equality is inevitable. Puerto Rico will be for all.”

24
May
2013

United Nations unveils global LGBT rights campaign

Ricky Martin, music, HRC National Dinner, gay news, Washington Blade

Ricky Martin is among those who supports a new U.N. campaign in support of LGBT rights (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The United Nations on Friday officially launched a public education campaign designed to increase support for LGBT rights around the world.

The year-long effort, which the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights unveiled during a press conference in Cape Town, South Africa, seeks to raise awareness of anti-LGBT violence and discrimination and encourage what it describes as “greater respect for the rights of LGBT people.”

The “Free & Equal” campaign will stress what a press release described as the “need for both legal reforms and public education to counter homophobia and transphobia.” The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights will also produce a number of videos that are similar to the one it released in May to mark the annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and gay South African Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron, who lives with HIV, joined U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay at the Cape Town press conference.

“Changing attitudes is never easy. But it has happened on other issues and it is happening already in many parts of the world on this one,” Pillay said. “It begins with often difficult conversations. And that is what we want to do with this campaign. ‘Free & Equal’ will inspire millions of conversations among people around the world and across the ideological spectrum.”

The U.N. in 2011 adopted a resolution in support of LGBT rights.

South Africa is among the 11 countries in which gays and lesbians can legally marry, but more than 70 countries continue to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts.

An increasing number of LGBT rights advocates have called for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and Russian vodka in response to recently enacted laws that ban so-called gay propaganda and same-sex couples from other countries from adopting Russian children. Four Dutch LGBT advocates returned to the Netherlands earlier this week after authorities in the Russian city of Murmansk arrested them under the country’s anti-gay propaganda law after they interviewed a teenager for a documentary on gay life in Russia.

The reported murder of a cross-dressing teenager near the Jamaican resort city of Montego Bay earlier this week sparked outrage among LGBT rights advocates in the Caribbean nation. The U.S. State Department and Human Rights Watch are among the groups that condemned the killing of prominent Cameroonian LGBT rights advocate Eric Ohena Lembembe who was found dead inside his home in the country’s capital on July 15.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe earlier this month sparked controversy when he said during a campaign rally ahead of his country’s July 31 elections that authorities should arrest gays and lesbians who don’t conceive children.

“The [U.N.'s] Universal Declaration of Human Rights promises a world in which everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights — no exceptions, no one left behind,” Pillay said. “Yet it’s still a hollow promise for many millions of LGBT people forced to confront hatred, intolerance, violence and discrimination on a daily basis.”

Singers Ricky Martin and Daniela Mercury and Bollywood actress Celina Jaitly are among those who have pledged to support the campaign.

26
Jul
2013

Puerto Rico Supreme Court upholds gay adoption ban

Gay News, Washington Blade, Puerto Rico, Hate Crimes

Pedro Julio Serrano (Photo courtesy of Pedro Julio Serrano)

The Puerto Rico Supreme Court on Wednesday narrowly upheld the island’s ban on gay adoption.

The 5-4 ruling came in response to an unidentified woman who sought to adopt her partner’s child that she conceived through in vitro fertilization. The two women had argued the American commonwealth’s law that prohibits same-sex couples from adopting children is unconstitutional.

Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force described the decision as “nefarious” in a statement.

“The constitution is clear: All citizens should be treated equally and their dignity should not be violated,” he said. “This decision violates, threatens and challenges these two premises of our Magna Carta. The Supreme Court has once again failed the Puerto Rican people.”

Gay Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin also criticized the decision.

“How sad,” he said in a Twitter post. “I see this as turning our backs on childhood. So many orphans want to have the warmth of one home.”

The court issued its decision a day after advocates met with Gov. Alejandro García Padilla to discuss anti-LGBT violence and other issues on the island.

Tens of thousands of people who oppose the proposed inclusion of sexual orientation in Puerto Rico’s domestic violence law marched through the streets of San Juan, the commonwealth’s capital, on Monday. Many of those who took part in the protest held signs in support of marriage as between a man and a woman.

Serrano and other activists have repeatedly criticized Puerto Rican officials for not doing enough to combat anti-LGBT hate crimes on the island in the wake of gay teenager Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado’s 2009 death.

The Puerto Rico Police Department agreed to strengthen its response to hate crimes as part of an agreement it reached with the Justice Department in December. Prosecutors in Mayaguez earlier this month announced they will seek a first degree murder as a hate crime charge against a man who allegedly used a machete to kill a gay hairdresser after he reportedly became enraged because they were unable to catch fish in three local rivers.

20
Feb
2013

Puerto Rico governor opposes adoption ruling

Alejandro García Padilla, Puerto Rico, Washington Blade, gay news

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla (Public domain photo by the U.S. Department of Labor)

WASHINGTON—Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla told a local newspaper on Monday that sexual orientation should not determine who is eligible to adopt a child in the American commonwealth.

The governor’s comments, which he made while in D.C. for the annual National Governors Association meeting, come less than a week after the Puerto Rico Supreme Court narrowly upheld the island’s gay adoption ban. Gay singer Ricky Martin and LGBT rights advocate Pedro Julio Serrano are among those who blasted the decision.

28
Feb
2013

Ricky Martin writes to lawmakers

Ricky Martin, music, HRC National Dinner, gay news, Washington Blade

Ricky Martin (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—Ricky Martin has urged Puerto Rican lawmakers to support measures that would extend adoption and other legal protections to the island’s LGBT residents.

“The same rights for all Puerto Rican citizens, this is what we are asking for,” the newspaper el Nuevo Día on Tuesday reported he wrote in a letter to Gov. Alejandro García Padilla and members of the Puerto Rico Senate and House of Representatives. “We hope to achieve this goal for a country of justice and peace that we want.”

08
May
2013

Video: Ricky Martin at the U.N.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yt_BuBZQb2s

The “Living La Vida Loca” singer moderated a panel on international LGBT rights at the international body earlier this month.

20
Dec
2012

Year in review: Better late than never: Anderson Cooper comes out

Anderson Cooper, CNN, gay news, Washington Blade

Anderson Cooper (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A number of celebrities, politicians and other officials came out during 2012.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper publicly acknowledged being gay for the first time in a statement gay commentator Andrew Sullivan posted to his blog on July 2. Sam Champion, weather anchor for “Good Morning America,” announced on-air in October that he was engaged to his long-time partner, photographer Rubem Robierb. (The couple attended a Freedom to Marry fundraiser in Miami Beach, Fla., a few days later.)

Gay singer Ricky Martin was among those who applauded Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz after he came out on Oct. 3. R&B singer Frank Ocean in July acknowledged his homosexuality, while Jamaican singer Diana King came out on her Facebook page in June. British singer Mika told Instinct Magazine in August he is gay.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Mike Fleck, a Republican who attended Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., earlier this month came out during an interview with a local newspaper. Stefany Hoyer Hemmer, daughter of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.,) came out as a lesbian during an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade in June.

“My father, as you know, just came out in support of gay marriage,” she said. “The momentum in Maryland right now for the adoption of the gay marriage law is fast-paced. I’m 43 years of age, and I’ve been gay my whole life and I just figured this is a good time to lend my name to the cause.”

DC Comics in June announced the Green Lantern is gay as part of its effort to reinvigorate the “Earth 2” series.

27
Dec
2012