Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Puerto Rico: Religious pressure drives Senate vote to ban same-sex marriage

Puerto Rico's El Nuevo Dia is reporting this morning that pressure from conservative religious groups might result in a Senate vote later today on a constitutional amendment to ban marriage between same-sex partners in the island.

Senator Jorge de Castro Font, who authored the measure and controls which bills are brought to the Senate floor, said just as much to El Nuevo Dia reporter Israel Rodríguez Sánchez yesterday, and said that he also believed there were enough votes to pass it.

Other Senate leaders from different political parties did not go on record to say if they agreed with De Castro Font's assessment though independent Senator María Lourdes Santiago did say that she would oppose attempts to pass such an amendment.

The measure would have to pass with the support of 3/4ths of the Senators and also be adopted by a 3/4ths vote in the House of Representatives before being submitted as a public referendum where it would just need a simple majority.

Rodríguez Sánchez, who has reported extensively on legislative issues in the island, said that he noticed the Reverend Jorge Raschke, an long-time gay rights foe, in De Castro Font's office earlier in the day but the Senator said they never met because he was unavailable. Other anti-gay pastors, Otoniel Font and Ricky Rosado, were also seen in the Senate corridors yesterday while a few people stood outside the Senate using speakers to express support for an amendment.

The latest move by De Castro Font follows his successful bid to eliminate language from a new Civil Code currently being drafted which would have granted same-sex couples in the island access to civil unions (I was definitely more upbeat about the issue the last time I mentioned the chances for same-sex civil unions being adopted by Puerto Rico).

The move, coming two days before the end of the legislative session, seemed to catch LGBT rights advocates by surprise. As I wrote yesterday, they are urging members of the LGBT community in Puerto Rico and their allies to call their representatives today and express their opposition to the amendment.

In a public statement sent this morning, Puerto Rico Para Tod@s' Pedro Julio Serrano stated that Puerto Rico's laws already limits marriages to those between a man and a woman and said that the effort to amend the constitution was a purely discriminatory endeavor: "With the country in [fiscal] bankruptcy, the senators should focus on finding solutions to the socio-economic crisis and not spend millions of dollars on a referendum that doesn't resolve a thing."

He added: "We trust that reason will prevail in today's senate session; that the senators understand that the Constitution guarantees equality for all Puerto Ricans, not only the majority; that they understand that the rights of no one, even less those of minorities, can be subjected to the possible abuse of the majority."

No comments: