In a blow to human rights, one territory has stripped down laws that prevented discrimination based on sexuality and gender.  

Earlier this month, Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced signed a new civil code that removed explicit non-discrimination protections for the island’s LGBTQI citizens.

A widely criticised amendment, as reported by freelancer journalist Nico Lang, is that corrections to the gender marker on a trans person’s birth certificate “cannot be authorised.” 

Instead of changing the birth gender, the document will now include an annotation noting an individual’s gender identity. 

Lang explains that could see a transgender person then be outed if they show those records to an employer.

 Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David said the revisions shamefully ignore the urgent calls of local advocates to explicitly include vital, comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQI residents.

“The government has failed to carry out its primary duty of ensuring the safety and well-being of all Puerto Ricans, including LGBTQ Puerto Ricans. 

“This year, there has been an alarming uptick in killings of LGBTQ people on the island. 

“The government should be doubling down on passing legal protections for the LGBTQ community and sending a clear message that LGBTQ people’s lives are worthy of equal dignity and respect.”

Mr David also slammed the government for bypassing the citizens, adding the process did not allow Puerto Ricans ample time to meaningfully participate in the democratic process by rushing it through during a pandemic. 

“It is altogether disappointing, disrespectful and unacceptable,’ he said. 

 In 2019, icon Ricky Martin used his social media to rally his followers to question the motives for introducing such a bill. 

 “We must keep in mind the senate’s motives to amend the Civil Code,” Martin tweeted (in Spanish), in 2019. “Lawmakers are obsessed with provoking a setback in the fight for equality the LGBTQ community has led.”

Vázquez attempted to answer concerns by stating that Puerto Rico “will never have a civil code with 100 per cent consensus.”

She added in a public statement that “abuse, mistreatment, discrimination nor the violation of human rights in any way is neither acceptable nor permitted.”

“We all have a civic duty to respect that is fundamental in a peaceful society,” Vázquez said.

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