It is 2013 and the island-colony-territory of Puerto Rico is still struggling to reconcile its Catholic past with a more secular future.
Such is the case with Puerto Rico’s ban on gay couples adopting children. In February the island’s Supreme Court upheld the adoption ban by a 5-4 vote, citing “the constitutionality of a law specifying that a family is comprised of a mother and father.” Earlier this week, however, the Puerto Rican government filed a motion asking the court to reverse the ban.
Puerto Rican governor Alejandro García Padilla of the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party (PPD) told the local media that he supported the motion because “adoption is a mechanism that provides a homes to those children who don’t have them. One cannot address sexual orientation when we are dealing with the best interests of a boy or a girl.”
He also added that “the courts must understand that the discussion must be based in a child’s well-being. What happens at an adult’s bedroom should not be the principal discussion point when you are dealing with the adoption of a minor.”
So here we are again.
You have a court that is pushing traditional family values versus a governor who believes that the children are the issue here. Add to the mix a pro-family anti-gay rights February rally that drew 200,000 people in San Juan and a growing gay rights movement on the island, and Puerto Rico is at a social crossroads.
My money right now is on García Padilla, because even though he is not personally in favor of gay marriage, he is following through on campaign promises that his administration would pay attention to gay rights. Meanwhile, the reactive anti-gay voices remind me of those three Puerto Rican bishops in 1960 who wrote letters to voters saying that a vote to re-elect governor Luis Muñoz Marín would be a sin because Marín’s PPD favored birth control. In that election, the Church even endorsed a Christian Action Party candidate. Muñoz Marín won his re-election by a landslide over his three opponents.
Gay couples adopting children is a Christian thing to do. If a loving couple can create a stable and nurturing environment for a child, why then are Christian groups predicting a return of Sodom and Gomorrah? The anti-gay voices can cite Saint Paul all they want. I will counter with what Jesus said about the little children. This is about love, never about hate. And if those critics use the argument that such a family arrangement will only “contaminate” a child, I have a counter to that one as well. Just ask the Church leaders who were shamelessly silent about other types of “contamination” against children.
Theology and morality aside, there is also a political argument to be made. If Puerto Rico wants to be taken seriously, especially as it continues to figure out its political status relationship with the United States, consistently promoting gay rights is more in line with the current mood of the mainland. Just ask GOP Rob Portman or that two gay marriage cases will be heard at the U.S. Supreme Court next week. When it comes to gay adoption, Puerto Rico is currently in the minority when compared to the U.S. mainland. That will have to change.
Equality cannot just be convenient, especially for pro-statehood Puerto Ricans. You want equal rights as a U.S. citizens? Support them as well for your fellow U.S. citizens who also happen to be gay. That is the tough but necessary play. And your stance has to be consistent, as pro-statehood Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierlusi recently learned when he had to backtrack on his positions.
The same goes for García Padilla, yet his administration’s action in filing the motion was very important. Pushing for change in an intolerant culture such as Puerto Rico’s cannot stop. Even if you have to file a hundred motions.
Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77 ) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. In the past 12 months, Julito represented the Rebeldes on Face the Nation, NPR, Univision, Forbes, and The New York Times.