Puerto Rico: 200,000 rally against gay rights

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A demonstration against equal rights for gay people in Puerto Rico earlier this week saw hundreds of thousands of people turn up.

According to leaders of the protests, between 200,000 and 268,000 Christian demonstrators turned up to San Juan’s Capitol building to protest against equal rights for LGBT people on Monday.

It was described as the largest such demonstration in the history of the US commonwealth.

The protesters claimed to be defending the idea of “traditional marriage”, and more generally were demonstrating against extending certain civil rights to LGBT people.

The demonstration came two days before the Supreme Court in Puerto Rico voted on Wednesday to uphold a law banning same-sex couples from adopting children.

The Associated Press reports that the court voted 5-4 to keep the law which makes it illegal for gay and lesbian couples to adopt.

A number of bills which could offer more rights to gay and lesbian Puerto Ricans more rights are set to be considered by lawmakers in the country.

A spokesman for Puerto Rico for the Family, Cesar Vazquez Muñiz, the organization behind the protests, said that it wanted to preserve marriage and family values for future generations.

“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,” he said. “This demonstration tells the government that there are things that they cannot touch and those are marriage and family.”

A counter-protest was also held nearby by religous leaders and followers. That group demanded equality.

Pastor Yenen Silén said:”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.”

The protests caused outrage, and some took to social media in order to express their opposition to the march. 

Puerto Rico’s legislature is currently reviewing a new amendment to Law 54, which would protect all couples, irrespective of marital status or sexual orientation, from domestic violence.

A similar bill is being worked on in the House of Representatives to stop discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace.

At the same time, the new governor of the island Alejandro García Padilla, said he would continue to stand up for equal rights for all communities, but said that he didn’t support equal marriage.

“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,” said Governor Alejandro García Padilla to Univision.

“I favor the law 54 which protects domestic partnership… As for marriage, I do not agree that it should be anything except between man and woman. But the rights that are guaranteed to people are those we have to look for and secure for all human beings,” he added.