Well this is a topic of great controversy, but one that needs to be talked about. I recently got a question regarding how is the life for gays and lesbians in Puerto Rico. This is a legitimate concern and I will try to explain to the best of my abilities what the life for gays and lesbians in Puerto Rico may be like and what to expect. So, from what I can perceive, if I were gay, I would be cautiously optimistic of things to come due to recent law changes, but it is far from optimal when compared to some U.S. states. However, like I said, I would be cautiously optimistic that the life for gays and lesbians in Puerto Rico will be getting better in the short term. I’ll explain further.
Ok, so in all honesty, I see gay and lesbian couples everywhere in Puerto Rico. I don’t see them hiding or hiding their affection for one another. I see them at the mall holding hands and showing affection, I see gays and lesbians at the gym I go to, not once do they seem to feel threatened or ashamed nor have I ever seen anyone trying to shame them in any way. Every single time that I see a gay couple, they are treated with respect just like anyone else.
The San Juan area has gay bars and the LGBT community is strong. There are groups that get together for activities, marches, and yes, there is an annual gay pride parade. When I walk down in the Condado or Isla Verde area, I see many gay and lesbian couples just walking around or having dinner outside with friends just like every other group of friends. To my eyes, there is really very little distinction from the life for gays and lesbians in Puerto Rico compared to heterosexual individuals. However, I know that looks can and often are deceiving.
One thing to realize that Puerto Rico has a huge Roman-Catholic influence, so keep that in mind, the most religious folks may be against same-sex marriage and rights, you see them in the protests openly voicing their opinions. As of today, Puerto Rico does not recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions. However, the government recently stated that Puerto Rico will no longer defend the ban on same-sex marriage. So it is still not allowed, but the government is now open to the idea of allowing same-sex marriage and is open to start talking about it as it will no longer defend the ban on same-sex marriage that is currently in place.
Same-sex couples are also not allowed to adopt, however, lesbian couples are allowed to receive In Vitro Fertilization, not sure how the parenting will be written in the birth certificate though.
The current governor, Mr. Alejandro García Padilla, allowed his employees in the executive branch the right to extend the health insurance benefits to their same-sex domestic partners. As of now, this is a right that the employer itself may grant to anyone, so the health benefits should be allowed to be extended to the domestic partners in cases of same-sex couples. Also, the domestic abuse laws also apply for same-sex couples.
The governor recently mandated that all public schools take a class in “gender perspective”. This is a class that teaches school-age kids about the differences of the perspective of gender and sexual orientation. Meaning that even though someone was born biologically a man, he may really feel like a woman and vice-versa. Also, just because I am a man, it does not mean that I am attracted to only women, that’s where the sexual orientation portion comes in. This caused a huge controversy but the governor kept at it and starting the 2015-2016 school year, “gender perspective” will be taught at the local public schools. This is all in efforts to create more awareness and acceptance.
So in summary, I don’t think there is any reason why a gay or lesbian couple can’t have a happy life in Puerto Rico. Even though I wouldn’t consider Puerto Rico to be legally “gay-friendly”, things seem to be moving in that direction (which is more than can be said about some U.S. States). Also, I don’t see why a gay or lesbian couple would have a more difficult time finding friends compared to heterosexual couples. I see so many gay and lesbian people among everyone else and it is not even an issue that is brought up, it’s like we’re past that, not that big of an issue outside of the legal system really. But, remember that same-sex couples still cannot adopt children in Puerto Rico, cannot get married, nor will have their marriages recognized from other states, so keep that in mind if you would like to do either of those in the short term. So, socially, I would think the life for gays and lesbians in Puerto Rico should be as good as other places. However legally speaking, maybe not, but again, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about the changes to come.
Here are a few links to more information about gay rights and LGBT groups in Puerto Rico.