As state capitals on the U.S. mainland move toward affirming the equal rights of gays, a large cross section of Puerto Rico remains firmly opposed:
“A multitude of diverse religious denominations gathered yesterday in front of the Capital to participate in ‘Puerto Rico Rises in Defense of the Family’ and proclaim that they represent the majority of the people.
The assembly was convened by multisectorial organizations, the Catholic, protestant and evangelical churches.
The spokesman for the event, César Vázquez, explained that the proposition was to affirm marriage and the family in defense of the rights to protect children. …
‘We are concerned that laws will be created to discriminate against the church. We are concerned that public education will be used to change our children, presenting them with behaviors their parents don’t think are correct,’ stated Vázquez. This demonstration was to ‘tell the Government that there are things that you cannot touch and they are marriage and family,’ he explained.”
Of course, not all of Puerto Rico is as backward as Monday’s rally suggests.
Human rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano took to Facebook to decry the event in San Juan. “Today was a day filled with hatred and intolerance against the LGBT community. … You don’t defend a family by denying rights to its most vulnerable members, attacking the dignity of any human being with hate, discrimination, intolerance and exclusion.”
A leader of the religious community, Pastor Yenen Silén, said such demonstrations represented the moral rift between the church and the rest of society. “One of the struggles I’ve had with the church is its sexist and homophobic message, and obviously when I see that they are using the resources they have to promote discrimination I cannot stay quiet because that is not the message of God,” Silén told Univision.
Even the newly elected Gov. Alejandro García Padilla got in on the action, throwing his support for the gay rights movement in Puerto Rico. “I have met with both sides of the leadership. As governor I react to reason, not pressure. My government is a government of inclusion, we all live in this country, we are all responsible for a better country,” Gov. Padilla said.
The governor did, however, restate his position that marriage is strictly between a man and a woman.
While Monday’s demonstration is an embarrassment for those Puerto Ricans who respect the right of all human beings to live free and love whomever they choose, it should come as a reminder to American advocates that the fight for fairness and equality at home will never see an end so long as bigotry and superstition have a foothold.
The burden has always been on the people pushing for a more open and equal society to persist against those pushing in the opposite direction. Unlike enlightenment, which only comes with much effort and a deep commitment to knowing, pigheadedness spreads quicker and easier than swine flu. Hate rises quickly while understanding takes time.
The legislature in San Juan is currently reviewing new amendments to Law 54, which would provide protection to all partners of domestic violence, regardless of marital status or sexual orientation. I hope the light of justice still shines on the island (if it ever did) and the gay rights movement moves forward in Puerto Rico unburdened by the blinding darkness of intolerance.
If not, I’ll have one more reason to hang my head whenever I see that beautiful flag.