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Puerto Rican Officials May Approve Anti-Discrimination Bill

Wednesday Jan 16, 2013

Puerto Rico's legislature is expected to approve a long sought-after bill that would make it a crime to discriminate against people based on their gender or sexual orientation.

The bill was submitted Tuesday by Senator Ramon Luis Nieves of the Popular Democratic Party, which gained control of the Senate and House of Representatives after November's general election.

The bill aims to protect people in the U.S. territory from being discriminated at work, in public places, and during transactions including renting or selling property.

"A human being's dignity cannot be violated," said Nieves, who was flanked by supporters including Pedro Peters Maldonado, a San Juan legislator who is Puerto Rico's first openly gay elected official.

A similar proposal was approved by the House of Representatives in recent years, but was rejected by the Senate, which was then controlled by the pro-statehood New Progressive Party.

Human rights organizations have long demanded such a bill, saying that many gay, lesbian and transgender people in the conservative U.S. territory are at the mercy of homophobic attitudes. Most government departments already have their own anti-discriminatory policies, but human rights activists say they are often not enforced.

The bill comes a week after another legislator submitted a bill demanding that all partners, regardless of their sexual orientation or civil status, be covered by domestic violence laws.

Legislators are expected to debate both bills in upcoming weeks.

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