Puerto Rico’s Civil Code Debate Got All Complicated This Week

May 14, 2020
5:23 PM

(AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo, File)

SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico’s Senate approved the amendments to the Civil Code on Monday, causing an uproar online due to the proposed legislation not receiving public hearings nor publication of the final draft before the vote.

The President of the Senate, Thomas Rivera Schatz, closed the debate on the Civil Code and stated that the project’s arrival in the Senate and its publication on the Senate website allowed for larger participation than there were in the public hearings. Rivera Schatz emphasized that the new Civil Code did not take away any rights recognized by the Supreme Court of The United States and Puerto Rico and does not restrict any rights.

LGBTQ groups who have raised previous concerns about the new Civil Code called the Senate vote “a key victory for transgender people in Puerto Rico” but still raised questions about what it all means going forward, particularly with a dramatic spike of anti-LGBTQ violence on the island.

After Schatz’s speech, amendments were presented on the Senate floor that were not published in the bill’s latest version on the Senate’s website and were approved. Subsequently, the bill was voted on, with the majority voting “yes,” and Sen. Carmelo Rios asked for a partial vote on the project to be done by roll call, resulting in 16 “yes” votes and seven “no” votes.

Rep. Maria Milagros “Tata” Charbonier, one of the authors of the original legislation when it was presented in Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives has recently taken to Twitter to clear up misconceptions on the Civil Code that were initially shared by Instagram user @noalareformapr. The social media posts were referring to the original proposed legislation from 2019 and not the updated version voted on Monday by the Senate.

Noted commentator Jay Fonseca of Telemundo also cleared up the fact that the version of the bill that he had shared to his followers was not the updated version that was voted on in the Senate. Though Rivera Schatz claimed that the version of the bill voted on Monday had not been published to the Senate website Wednesday, legal news site MicroJuris posted the final document on Tuesday.

Puerto Rican stars such as Ricky Martin, Bad Bunny, iLe, and Residente also expressed their problems against the proposed legislation.

Local celebrity Mimi Pabón tweeted out how the Senate vote showed the importance of voting without adhering to parties or family affiliation.

The hashtags #NOalNuevoCodigoCivil and #NoAlCodigoCivil were trending at #3 in the United States and #1 in Puerto Rico, respectively.

On Thursday, Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives reviewed the amendments and concurred with the Senate’s additions, leaving Gov. Wanda Vázquez as the final say for the project. However, there was a lot of discussion on the House floor due to claims of not following parliamentary procedure. Rep. Manuel Natal claimed in a tweet that there was no official notification about the amendments’ approval by the Senate. He then went on to state that the proposed legislation was agreed to with a voice vote with objection from the House’s minority parties.

On Thursday, Vázquez tweeted her official thoughts, stating that once the proposed legislation would reach her office, she would thoroughly examine it to ensure that all rights would be secured.

This appears to be the next step.


Isabella Philippi Cámara is a freelance journalist who has worked for GFR Media, and is currently a rising senior in university studying communications. You can find her on Twitter @iphilippicamara