Puerto Rico’s Governor Signs Dangerous New Civil Code

Wanda Vázquez Garced with Canóvanas mayor, Lornna Soto. (Photo Credit: Garced Official Twitter page)

When Wanda Vázquez Garced was appointed governor of Puerto Rico in July 2019, her appointment was not well received.  The former Secretary of Justice ascended to the office of governor when Ricardo Rosselló resigned after private chats between Rosselló and his inner circle containing homophobic and misogynistic comments were leaked

“Her positions and her character as a person is well aligned with what Ricardo Rosselló represents,” said Mayra Velez Serrano, a professor of political science at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. “It’s no surprise that Puerto Ricans don’t want her either.”

The distrust in Garced seems to have been warranted. A new civil code created by Puerto Rico’s legislature in May was hastily pushed through both the island’s Senate and House of Representatives and ll it needed was a signature by Garced to become law.  The Civil Code, which has been called into question by Lambda Legal, the Human Rights Campaign, and famous Puerto Ricans, Ricky Martin and Bad Bunny, could threaten women’s and LGBTQ rights. 

Concerning the Civil Code, David Alphonso, HRC President, said in a statement:

“Puerto Ricans deserve a fair, transparent ratification process of their Civil Code, not a rushed, backroom deal by the legislature. We condemn anti-equality leaders’ furtive attempts to use this process as a way to target LGBTQ Puerto Ricans. The secrecy surrounding the codes and the legislative process is particularly troubling in the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which has critically hampered the ability for citizens to participate and make their voices heard. Governor Wanda Vazquez must stand up for LGBTQ Puerto Ricans and for democracy by slowing down this process and allowing all to participate in shaping the future of the island.”

At stake for the LGBTQ community of Puerto Rico are several marriage rights like inheritance, spousal healthcare, and surrogacy.  For women, abortion rights and other decisions about their body are in jeopardy.  The new civil code also legalizes conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.

The civil code also contains contradictory language concerning trans Puerto Ricans.  Although it has been legal for trans people to change their gender on their birth certificate since 2018, the revised code would prohibit amending the birth sex on original birth certificates.  This limbo for trans Puerto Ricans comes at a time when their safety in question already with the recent murders of four transgender Puerto Ricans.

“It lends itself to stigmatization and huge discrimination,” said Luis Vega, a congressman with the opposition Popular Democratic Party. “That certificate would have a kind of mark or stain that distinguishes you from everyone else in Puerto Rico.”

On Monday, June 1, Garced signed the Civil Code, and 24 hours later, protestors gathered at the governor’s mansion to voice their outrage for the Civil Code as well as their solidarity in the protests for George Floyd. In anticipation of the protests, Puerto Rican police set up barricades in front of the mansion.

In a tweet on Monday, Garced defended the Civil Code by claiming the rights of the trans community to change their birth certificate was guaranteed.

Garced held an informational video on the Civil Code online on Thursday, June 4.

Many who opposed the Code took to Twitter themselves to inform others about the signing of it into law.

Source: Human Rights Campaign, Reuters, Time, CNN, Washington Blade

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