Gov.-elect Pedro Pierluisi has tried to distance himself from the anti-LGBTQ views of his party, but it remains to be seen if he will make curbing anti-LGBTQ discrimination and hate crimes a priority.
Puerto Rico has been at the forefront of LGBTQ rights. We are far more advanced than 30 US states and territories, according to the Movement Advancement Project’s (MAP) LGBTQ Equality Map.
This is true even while the LGBTQ communities have fought anti-LGBTQ efforts from the outgoing government. LGBTQ and feminist activists were at the forefront of the protests that led to the ouster of Ricardo Rosselló from La Fortaleza after a homophobic, misogynist, and hate-filled chat was published. The same group of leaders forced Rosselló to drop a religious freedom bill that sought to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people.
Now, we have a new governor-elect from the same party that has led the fight against LGBTQ issues, Pedro Pierluisi. Interestingly, during his campaign, he tried to distance himself from his anti-LGBTQ views from the past and even those from his own party, which has been ardently homophobic by enacting a Civil Code that endangers LGBTQ rights.
In June, the governor-elect celebrated a recent US Supreme Court decision on LGBTQ discrimination and vowed to combat discrimination against the LGBTQ community in a campaign ad. This is a first in the New Progressive Party’s (PNP) history.
This pivot made by Pierluisi is a radical change from his own party, who has the most anti-LGBTQ legislators in history. It might have been a campaign strategy, due to the fact that a new anti-LGBTQ party, Partido Dignidad, emerged and took away thousands of voters from the PNP. Also, it was viewed as a strategy to distance himself from Charlie Delgado, his challenger from the Popular Democratic Party, who was more conservative than him.
To make things more interesting in 2021, we will have the most diverse legislature in history, which will be led by the Popular Democratic Party. It will also have the addition of legislators from two new parties, one progressive and one regressive. This means that consensus should drive the next four years. Or at least we hope so.
The landscape of Puerto Rican government will be as complex as the crisis we are facing. In the last year, six transgender people have been murdered and in the last two years, almost 15 LGBTQ people have been killed and there have multiple attacks in which the survivors have lived to tell their story. This is a spike in anti-LGBTQ violence we haven’t seen in years.
This means that Pierluisi’s government will have to step up where outgoing Gov. Wanda Vázquez’ administration has failed by not curbing increasing anti-LGBTQ violence. He will have to issue executive orders to prioritize not only the gender violence emergency, but also the hate crimes crisis that we face.
If Pierluisi is true to his word, he should look for a bill that prohibits anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing, credit, and public accommodations. He should also guarantee that LGBTQ youth have their rights protected in the public school system and work with the legislature to amend the Civil Code in order to protect and expand LGBTQ rights.
Above all, Pierluisi will have to use the bully pulpit to combat anti-LGBTQ discrimination, violence, and hate crimes. He has the opportunity that Rosselló failed to comprehend. There is no turning back on LGBTQ rights.
The only way to move on this issue is forward. The governor-elect campaigned as he understood this truth. Now it’s his time to prove that he can walk the talk and to truly make Puerto Rico a place where all of us are respected, protected, and liberated.