Puerto Rico governor vetoes religious freedom bill

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ABOVE: Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Feb. 7, 2018, vetoed a religious freedom bill that critics said would have allowed anti-LGBT discrimination. Image by Nicolas Raymond; courtesy Flickr.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Wednesday vetoed a religious freedom bill that critics contend would have allowed anti-LGBT discrimination in the U.S. commonwealth.

Rosselló in a letter to Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz noted his administration “has an unwavering commitment to guarantee and protect the fundamental rights of all of our citizens.”

Rosselló told Rivera “one of the most important rights of our republican system of government is religious liberty.” Rosselló nevertheless acknowledged the bill “has raised serious concerns and distractions that could cause the violation of rights of portions of our society and even limit our population’s access to public services.”

“We promised a government that will serve all the citizens of this land and we will do so,” said Rosselló.

The measure received final approval in the Puerto Rico Senate on Jan. 29. The Puerto Rico House of Representatives passed the bill last year.

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, applauded Rosselló for his veto.

“I congratulate and am thankful to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló for doing the right thing and vetoing the bill that tried to legalize discrimination against LGBT people,” wrote Serrano on his Twitter page. “Now we must make sure that lawmakers do not override the veto.”

Rosselló vetoed the bill nearly five months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico on Sept. 20.

Hundreds of thousands of people remain without electricity in the U.S. commonwealth. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and others continue to criticize President Trump over his response to Maria.

More than 50 percent of Puerto Rico lost electricity when Hurricane Irma brushed the island on Sept. 7.

ABOVE: Damage from Hurricane Maria remains along the oceanfront in the neighborhood of La Perla in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Jan. 29, 2018. The official residence of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is less than a mile away. Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers.

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