Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló backed down from a "religious liberty bill” after international star Ricky Martin published an open letter Thursday slamming the legislation that would exempt government employees from serving constituents if they believe it clashes with their religious beliefs.
“As a defender of human rights and a member of the LGBTT community, I am vehemently opposed to the proposed measure imposed upon us under the guise of religious freedom,” the Puerto Rican artist wrote, that "projects us to the world as a backwards country.”
Hours after the letter was published, Rosselló asked legislators to shelve the bill, saying in a statement that "instead of reaching a consensus on a basis of mutual respect, it provokes the division of our people."
His petition came just minutes after island senator Zoe Laboy said she was "determined to submit a negative report to the project of religious freedom before the members of the commission that I preside over for its evaluation."
Martin's letter came a day after he took to social media to speak out against Rosselló and the island’s House of Representatives, who had voted in favor of the bill Tuesday.
“The House Bill 2069, filed at the request of Governor Ricardo Rosselló and promoted by Representative Charbonier, is nothing more than opening the door to hatred towards anyone who does not share the same ideology, who belongs to the LGBTT community, or that is not even the same skin color, among so many other discriminatory manifestations,” Martin wrote on Twitter in Spanish.
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The bill had sparked fierce outcry in the island from civil rights and LGBTQ actvists, and at least three U.S. Democratic presidential candidates — Julián Castro, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — have voiced their opposition to the legislation.
“We must defeat this bill — and work to end discrimination, rather than give it shelter,” Castro, the only Latino running for president, said.
New York Democratic congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, who is from Puerto Rico, has also decried the measure.
Supporters of the bill, including the governor, say that the government cannot discriminate and has “the obligation to always provide public services to all its citizens.” Still, the bill calls for government employees and employers to “seek reasonable accommodations” in the face of “foreseeable future conflict.”
Rosselló had said Wednesday that he would only sign the controversial bill if Puerto Rican lawmakers approve another bill that would ban conversion therapies in Puerto Rico.
But this legislation has also been slammed by civil rights groups since it only bans conversion therapies conducted by mental health professionals while allowing the practice to continue in churches and by parents of a minor.
In the wake of the controversy, Rosselló asked legislators Thursday to also withdraw this bill.
The governor had already issued the controversial conversion therapy ban under an executive order March 27, and that will still stand even though it doesn't become law.
Martin’s social media posts, which he published just three days after leading the 62nd National Puerto Rican Day Parade, motivated more artists and politicians to publicly condemn the bill.
Grammy-winning Puerto Rican musician René Pérez Joglar, also known as Residente Calle 13, said on Instagram that the law makes Puerto Rico “look bad on an international level, like a retrograde country.”
“This does no good to tourism, on the contrary. This is a shame,” the artist added.
"This movement is not representative of the Puerto Rico that we all love, defend and hold so dear. We call on the Senate, the House and Governor Ricardo Rosselló to reject this effort, which is an open door to hatred and discrimination," Martin said in his letter.
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