Protections for trans Puerto Rico Senate employees rescinded

By : Michael K. Lavers of the Washington Blade, courtesy of the National Gay Media Association
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The president of the Puerto Rico Senate has eliminated protections for the chamber’s transgender employees.

El Vocero, a Puerto Rican newspaper, reported Sen. Thomas Rivera Schatz on March 31 rescinded an administrative order that said trans Senate employees could use bathrooms and wear clothing that is consistent with their gender identity.

Then-Senate President Eduardo Bhatía signed the order in 2014. El Vocero reported Schatz — who is a vocal opponent of LGBT rights in the U.S. commonwealth — removed from the list of discriminatory practices the requirement that “a person (must) dress in a manner that is inconsistent with their gender identity or prevents them from expressing their identity.”

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican advocacy group, in a sharply worded statement he released on Tuesday accused Rivera of violating the island’s 2013 law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“You have to be a real bastard, Thomas Rivera Schatz, to eliminate well-designed protections in an administrative order (and) to express and blatantly discriminate against the Senate’s transgender and transsexual employees,” said Serrano. “Not allowing them to use the bathroom or wear clothing that matches their gender identity is a violation of 2013’s Law 22 that precisely prohibits this type of discrimination.”

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was born in Puerto Rico, in her own statement also accused Rivera of violating the U.S. commonwealth’s nondiscrimination law. She added “this deplorable act of cowardice” not only mirrors President Trump’s “hateful and divisive rhetoric,” but “falls in line with” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s “recent attempts to roll back the rights of Puerto Rico’s LGBTQ community.”

“Rivera Schatz should be ashamed of himself,” said Mark-Viverito. “Instead of taking the time to disempower the must vulnerable Puerto Ricans, he should be focused on strengthening them and moving the island forward.”

Lambda Legal was among the plaintiffs in a 2014 lawsuit that challenged Puerto Rico’s same-sex marriage ban. The LGBT legal group on Tuesday said Rivera has violated Puerto Rican and federal law and the U.S. constitution.

Rivera did not return the Washington Blade’s request for comment.

Rivera eliminated the protections for trans Puerto Rican Senate employees less than two months after Trump rescinded guidance to public schools on how they should accommodate their trans students. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace.

Nearly half of the 49 people who were killed inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016, were LGBT Puerto Ricans.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz officially unveiled Puerto Rico’s first LGBT-specific monument — which is located in her city’s Third Millennium Park — two weeks later. A plaque with the names of the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre is located next to it.

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