Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló said he will sign an executive order banning so-called gay conversion therapy on minors.
Rosselló announced the decision on Wednesday (March 20), days after a bill on the subject was blocked in the House of Representatives by his own party, the New Progressive Party.
“As a father, as a scientist and as governor of everyone in Puerto Rico, I firmly believe that the idea that there are people in our society who need treatment due to their gender identity or those who love is not only absurd, but it is harmful to so many children and young people who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” the governor said in remarks quoted in local media.
The executive order is expected to be signed in the next few days.
“I strive for Puerto Rico to be a society in which everyone, no matter who they love, can be accepted and live without fear of persecution.”
— Ricardo Rosselló
Rosselló added: “I strive for Puerto Rico to be a society in which everyone, no matter who they love, can be accepted and live without fear of persecution. This includes the most vulnerable in society, our children, who must be supported and loved. Conversion therapy does not benefit anyone in any way, it only causes unimaginable pain and suffering.”
Carmen Yulín Cruz, mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital and largest city, San Juan, expressed support for the governor’s decision.
She wrote on Twitter: “Conversion therapies are inhumane and seek to deprive human beings of their dignity. Love is love. It is a simple concept. The compatriots of the LGBT+ community love, period. And love always, always wins over hate. ALWAYS.”
Puerto Ricans are American citizens even if the island is considered an unincorporated organised territory within the US commonwealth rather than a state—they can vote in party primaries but do not elect representatives to Congress or the Senate.
Federal US law applies to Puerto Rico, as the First Circuit Court of Appeals reminded US District Court Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez in April 2016, when the lower court tried to ban the implementation of the Supreme Court ruling legalising same-sex marriage across the nation.
The LGBT+ community in Puerto Rico remains target of prejudice and violence. Earlier this year, the murder of 24-year-old outspoken gay trap artist Kevin Fretshocked the community but, as Paper magazine noted, also highlighted persistent homophobia against LGBT+ people.