Lambda Legal in Puerto Rico

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May 15, 2014
A Lambda Legal volunteer at LGBT Pride in Boquerón, Puerto Rico.

En español

For more than 15 years, Lambda Legal has been working together with leaders, advocates and community organizers in Puerto Rico to defend and secure the rights of LGBT and HIV-affected Puerto Ricans.

Here are a few highlights of our work making the case for equality in Puerto Rico:

  • In 1995, the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL), a national organization, held its convention in San Juan, hoping to form a local affiliate. After the Puerto Rico Police Department harassed lesbian and gay officers during the convention, Lambda Legal sued the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. In 1998, a federal judge struck down a disciplinary rule that prohibited Puerto Rico police officers from associating with lesbians and gay men — an important victory for lesbian and gay law enforcement personnel and the Puerto Rican gay community.


  • In 2009, we issued a statement condemning the brutal murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado, a 19-year-old gay man who was decapitated, dismembered and burned in an apparent hate crime near the town of Cayey. We also hosted a roundtable with local LGBT advocates to discuss the wave of anti-trans attacks on the island.



  • We also celebrated a historic day for LGBT rights on the island, when Gov. Alejandro García Padilla signed two landmark bills into law:  one prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and one that includes same-sex couples in the domestic violence law.


  • In February, we pressed the García Padilla administration to modernize the procedures to update gender markings on driver licenses.


  • Last month, we urged Gov. García Padilla to take certain considerations into account when nominating a new justice to the Puerto Rico Supreme Court or making any other judicial nominations. In a letter to the Governor, we asked him to ensure that any potential nominee’s judicial philosophy includes a commitment to rule fairly and impartially in cases involving LGBT and HIV-positive litigants, and we urged him to seek thoughtful jurists who reflect Puerto Rico’s rich diversity.


  • Also last month, Lambda Legal Transgender Rights Project Director, M. Dru Levasseur, addressed challenges to discriminatory health care exclusions as well as issues and policies affecting the coverage and access to health care for the transgender community at the third annual Puerto Rican Summit for LGBT Health (“3ra Cumbre Puertorriqueña en Pro de la Salud Lesbiana, Gay, Bisexual, Transgénero y Transexual”).  It’s Lambda Legal’s third time at the summit.


  • This week, we’re co-sponsoring with the Puerto Rico Civil Rights Commission a special screening of the documentary Familias Por Igual on May 15, the International Day of Families.


  • Through Lambda Legal’s Latino outreach program, Proyecto Igualdad, we continue to expand our efforts in Puerto Rico. Our Puerto Rico page summarizes the rights, under Commonwealth law, of LGBT people and those living with HIV. With the help of local volunteers, we’ve staffed an information booth at LGBT Pride events in Boquerón. Our legal Help Desk fields calls and emails from all over, in both English and Spanish. And our Spanish site showcases our growing list of Spanish-language publications and resources for bilingual and Spanish speaking LGBT people, people with HIV, loved ones and allies.