Puerto Rico’s Governor Wanda Vázquez may sign a controversial new version of the U.S. territory’s civil code today, and many—basically, anyone who’s not a supporter of the conservative New Progressive Party that’s behind the update—are working hard to make their disapproval known. And so are a handful of the island’s most famous artists, from Bad Bunny to Residente to Dominican-born, San Juan denizen Rita Indiana.
Translation: In the middle of pandemic, more cases of gender-based violence, an investigation for corruption, and stupid politicians want to approve a new civil code to intervene with and manipulate our rights. @wandavazquezg this is your chance to do something right. Say #NoAlCódigoCivil.
For all the changes made since its beginnings several years ago—and it’s been consistently contested throughout this trajectory—the bill, which would replace the original 1930 civil code altogether, has been called a “código Frankenstein” by some. The final version includes amendments made as recently as Monday, when it was approved by the Senate 16-7, with some senators absent. It was approved by the House of Representatives today and is expected to be promptly delivered to Gov. Vázquez, who will either veto or sign the bill into law.
The bill in its entirety, as it stands right now, has not been made available to the public. In fact, no public hearings for the civil code have been held since mid-April.
It’s been revised “behind the backs of the people” and with a “conservative agenda,” notes Puerto Rico LGBT advocacy nonprofit el Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad.
Some of the most alarming adjustments include changes to the procedure for trans people who want to correct their gender marker on their birth certificate: Rather than replacing the incorrect gender altogether, an annotation will be made, which leaves trans people exposed to discrimination in employment or other situations where their birth certificates may be required. Additionally, the new code implies a judge will have to approve the change in addition to the currently required approval of a doctor.
Marriage has been reworded to specifically refer to “natural persons,” which some say could be interpreted to exclude members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Regulations around surrogacy, which also affects the LGBTQIA community, have also been altered: Financial compensation for the process would be prohibited if the code is signed into law.
And, unsurprisingly, the new civil code makes another go at restricting abortion rights—according to pro-choice advocates, at least. The former civil code indicated a child earned legal rights once outside of the womb. The new language is ambiguous, many say, and opens the door to banning abortions altogether by affording legal rights to a fetus.
But because the final iteration of the document has not been made available to the people of Puerto Rico, many of the aforementioned changes aren’t for sure. What’s in that document could be worse, or it could be less problematic. Bits and pieces of the bill have made the rounds on the internet, but it’s not presented in full on any government website. The fact that it hasn’t been communicated transparently to the people it affects, while giving them an opportunity to voice their concerns, stokes fears that the former is the more likely scenario.
Additionally, a reworked electoral code could soon become law. This, too, is being contested by many activists.
Some Puerto Ricans are speculating that the emphasis on both polemic changes in law are a form of distraction from the government’s failures amid the covid-19 pandemic, like the bungling of a now-canceled $1 million test kit order, a lack of widespread testing, an surge in cases of gender-based violence under quarantine, and its more than 87K still-unfulfilled claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
A Change.org petition against the new civil code is ongoing. So far, more than 93,000 people have signed.