Photo Essay: Marching toward equity in the streets of San Juan
In spite of the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which declared same sex-marriage as protected by the United States Constitution, the practice remains severely frowned upon by many in Puerto Rico. In 2016, a judge ruled that the Obergefell decision did not apply on the island, because Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory and not a state. That ruling was quickly overturned. Today, same-sex marriage is protected on the island.
In 1973, the Comunidad de Orgullo Gay was the first gay rights organization in Puerto Rico. In 1991, the Coalición Puertorriqueña de Lesbianas y Homosexuales was formed. That same year, one of the island’s first LGBT Pride parades was organized. Since then, Pride parades occur each year in San Juan and Cabo Rojo.
Progress toward equity occurs in the streets, courthouses, and capitol. Until this year, transgender people in Puerto Rico were forbidden by law from changing their legally assigned gender on their birth certificates. In early April, a federal judge ruled the law unconstitutional. In May, a bill to ban the use of conversion therapy on minors was introduced to the Puerto Rican Senate.
The New Progressive Party is the political party currently in power. Much like mainland United States Republicans, New Progressives oppose abortion and same-sex marriage, and favor tax cuts for the rich.
“Queer UPR.” The University of Puerto Rico is the most important institution of higher education on the island. The Women’s and Gender Studies program at the Rio Piedras Campus, located in the capital, is a vocal advocate in the fight for equal rights.
Colectiva Feminista is a grassroots organization that takes an intersectional feminist approach to fighting capitalism and patriarchy.
Various social movements on the island have appropriated the Puerto Rican flag and reimagined it in line with their goals. This one features the colors of the Pride flag.
According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted between November 2013 and February 2014, 33 percent Puerto Ricans living on the island supported same sex marriage, while 55 percent were opposed.
Carla M. Pérez Meléndez is a Puerto Rican journalist, photographer, and aspiring filmmaker. She has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a major in audiovisual communication and journalism. She has collaborated with The Washington Post, RYOT/The Intercept, Vice HBO, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.