Tag Archives: non-discrimination

HRC rates companies for LGBT inclusion, 9 in Wisconsin get perfect scores

An annual report assessing LGBT inclusion in major companies and law firms across the nation gives high marks to a record 517 businesses, including some headquartered in Wisconsin.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s annual Corporate Equality Index examines corporate policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality and found 517 businesses — spanning nearly every industry and geography — earned a top score of 100 percent and the distinction of “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.”

HRC, in a news release, said that record number of perfect scores was achieved despite “demanding new criteria requiring that companies with global operations extend non-discrimination protections for their LGBT workers worldwide.”

In total, 887 companies were officially rated in the CEI, up from 851 in last year’s. The report also unofficially rated 156 Fortune 500 companies, which have yet to respond to the CEI survey about their LGBTQ policies and practices.

The average score for companies and law firms based in Wisconsin is 85 percent.

Of the 16 companies ranked in the state, nine earned 100 percent and 12 earned 90 percent and above.

“Even in the face of relentless attempts to undermine equality, America’s leading companies and law firms remain steadfast and committed to supporting and defending the rights and dignity of LGBTQ people,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “The unprecedented expansion of inclusive workplaces across the country and around the globe not only reflects our progress, it helps drive it.  As we enter a new chapter in our fight for equality, support from the business community will be more critical than ever to protect our historic advancements over the last decade and to continue to push equality forward for workers, customers, and families around the world.”

Here’s a look at the Wisconsin rankings:

Employer Name City State 2017 CEI Score
ManpowerGroup Milwaukee WI 100
American Family Insurance Group Madison WI 100
CUNA Mutual Group Madison WI 100
Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Milwaukee WI 100
Foley & Lardner LLP Milwaukee WI 100
Michael Best & Friedrich LLP Milwaukee WI 100
Quarles & Brady LLP Milwaukee WI 100
Rockwell Automation Inc. Milwaukee WI 100
S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. Racine WI 100
Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated Milwaukee WI 95
Kohl’s Corp. Menomonee Falls WI 95
Alliant Energy Corp. Madison WI 90
WEC Energy Group Milwaukee WI 75
Johnson Controls Inc. Milwaukee WI 75
Oshkosh Corp. Oshkosh WI 20
Harley-Davidson Inc. Milwaukee WI 10

 

And here’s some key national findings in the report:

  • 517 companies earned a 100 percent in the 2017 CEI, up from 407 in the 2016 report.
  • 647 companies participating in this year’s CEI now offer transgender workers at least one health care plan that has transgender-inclusive coverage. That’s a 314 percent increase since 2012, when the CEI first included trans-inclusive health care as a requisite for companies to receive a perfect score;
  • Gender identity is now part of non-discrimination policies at 82 percent of Fortune 500 companies, up from just 3 percent in 2002;
  •  387 major employers have adopted supportive inclusion guidelines for transgender workers who are transitioning.
  • 156 Fortune 500 companies were given unofficial scores based on publicly available information.

The CEI rates companies and top law firms on detailed criteria falling under five broad categories:

  1. Non-discrimination policies
  2. Employment benefits
  3. Demonstrated organizational competency and accountability around LGBT diversity and inclusion
  4. Public commitment to LGBT equality
  5. Responsible citizenship

Tech giants join rebuke of North Carolina law blocking LGBT rights

Technology giants Apple, Google and Facebook are among a dozen big companies or their top executives objecting to a North Carolina law that bars municipalities from adopting their own anti-discrimination ordinances.

Facebook, Google and Apple each run massive data-processing complexes in western North Carolina.

They joined American Airlines, IBM and others in reacting to a state law quickly adopted on March 23 that blocked local government measures to counter discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people.

None of the high-profile companies have threatened to immediately withdraw business from North Carolina.

San Francisco’s mayor on March 25 banned city workers from non-essential travel to North Carolina. The city, which has a large LGBT population, “will not subsidize legally sanctioned discrimination,” Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement.

The Charlotte ordinance would have enabled transgender people to legally use restrooms aligned with their gender identity and would have provided broad protections against discrimination in public accommodations in the state’s largest city.

North Carolina is the first state to require public school and university students to use only those bathrooms that match their birth certificates, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

Civil rights advocates say state legislators demonized LGBT people with bogus claims about bathroom risks. Supporters say the new law protects all people from having to share bathrooms with people who make them feel unsafe.

 

Support for the law

Some other businesses have voiced support for the measure Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law, a spokesman for his re-election campaign said. Spokesman Ricky Diaz did not respond when asked which businesses backed the governor’s decision.

Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat challenging McCrory this fall, opposes the law.

He said he’s worried actions by the GOP-led legislature and the governor could harm the state’s chances to land or keep sporting events such as the NCAA basketball tournament and the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte in 2017. Both organizations released statements about the law on March 24, but stopped short of saying they would not hold the events in the city.

“Not only is it wrong to discriminate, but we should not be putting our economy in jeopardy,” Cooper told 99.9 The Fan, a Raleigh-area radio station, calling the actions creating the law “a national embarrassment.”

McCrory and his allies have blamed Cooper for failing to intervene before the General Assembly did to stop Charlotte’s ordinance. McCrory said Thursday that Cooper has “lost touch” with the privacy norms the public expects while using a restroom or locker room.

About 200 protesters blocked a downtown Raleigh street in front of the state’s Executive Mansion on March 24. Police said in a statement that five people were arrested after they sat down in the street and refused orders to disperse.

McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, stays in the mansion while in the state capital but was not there at the time of the protest, spokesman Josh Ellis said.

 

Breaking today in North Carolina

LGBT civil rights groups were preparing on March 28 to announce a legal challenge to the North Carolina law. The lawsuit is being filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina on behalf of several organizations and individuals who will be harmed by the law.

N.C. rolls back anti-discrimination protections

The North Carolina General Assembly convened a $42,000 special session to introduce and pass a measure that overrides an anti-discrimination ordinance in Charlotte and prevents local governments from enacting nondiscrimination policies to protect LGBT people.

The Charlotte ordinance protected LGBT residents from discrimination in public accommodations, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and bathrooms. Among other protections, it allowed transgender men and transgender women to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

Soon after the bill passed the Legislature,  Gov. Pat McCrory signed the measure into law.

The measure removes the ability of any local government to protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and requires all public facilities, including schools, to allow restroom access only on the basis of “biological sex.”

The measure jeopardizes more than $4.5 billion in federal funding that North Carolina receives for secondary and post-secondary schools under Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination against transgender students.

“Rather than expand nondiscrimination laws to protect all North Carolinians, the General Assembly instead spent $42,000 to rush through an extreme bill that undoes all local nondiscrimination laws and specifically excludes gay and transgender people from legal protections,” said Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. “The manner in which legislators passed the most extreme anti-LGBT bill in the nation — voting hours after it was unveiled without adequate public debate — flies in the face of fairness and democracy.”

More than 200 cities, including Myrtle Beach and Columbia, South Carolina, have adopted nondiscrimination ordinances similar to Charlotte’s without negative consequences.

The North Carolina League of Municipalities, Attorney General Roy Cooper, Red Hat and Dow Chemical were among those who came out in opposition to the bill, in addition to major companies including Apple, Siemens, Microsoft, and AT&T who supported the Charlotte ordinance.

A Public Policy Polling survey released on March 22 showed widespread, bipartisan agreement among state voters that the Legislature should leave Charlotte’s ordinance alone.

“We did everything we could to defeat this legislation that was introduced and signed during a hastily-called special session of the General Assembly. We collaborated closely with Equality North Carolina, National Center for Transgender Equality, ACLU, HRC, Freedom for All Americans, and others to prepare spokespeople, connect constituents to their lawmakers via calls and emails, and to educate lawmakers directly,” said Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of the Equality Federation, a coalition of LGBT civil rights groups. “Unfortunately, we were up against a conservative House, Senate, and a governor who has been relying on disgusting, fear-mongering, anti-transgender rhetoric to fuel his re-election campaign.”

The next step may lead to the courthouse.

“We’re not giving up. The ACLU and Equality North Carolina are exploring a path forward in the courts. Several rallies are being held today. And, large businesses in the state like DOW Chemicals are standing strong against discrimination,” Isaacs said.

 

 

Madison bans discrimination against atheists

Without dissent, the Madison Town Council on March 31 voted to ban discrimination against people who are “non-religious.” Multiple sources say the move is the first in the nation to protect people who don’t believe in God from discrimination.

“It’s my personal feeling that since we protect religious people, we should protect non-religious people,” said Madison Alder Anita Weier, who sponsored the amendment. She first introduced it on March 17, before the brouhaha over religious rights erupted in Indiana.

Weier said she didn’t know whether incidents in Indiana are behind the fact that no one voted against the amendment, which was adopted on a voice vote.

“It was something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while,” Weier said. “I’m not running for reelection, so it’s something that I wanted to get passed before I left office. Anyone who was seeking reelection might not have introduced it.”

The ban was added to an existing equal-opportunity ordinance, which protects people from discrimination based on a list of factors, including race, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. The March 31 vote added the phrase “religion or non-religion” to the ordinance, which applies to employment, housing and public accommodations.

Non-believers represent a growing movement in the United States. There are a growing number of atheist organizations that maintain a presence on Facebook, including Atheist Republic, which has nearly 1.2 million “likes.” In recent years, such groups have been posting billboards around the country, including in Milwaukee during December 2014.

The billboard, which was placed on St. Paul Avenue just south of I-94, pictured a small girl writing to Santa: “All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I’m too old for fairy tales.”

The billboard was sponsored by American Atheists and Southeast Wisconsin Freethinkers, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Although the Constitution prohibits government office seekers from a religious litmus test, people who don’t believe in God are banned from office in six southern states and Maryland. Non-believers say they frequently face discrimination, and a 2012 Gallup poll found that Americans are more likely to vote for gays or Muslims than atheists.

Mormon church backs LGBT anti-discrimination bill in Utah

More than 20 years ago, Troy Williams was a young Mormon missionary who didn’t know how he would reconcile his sexual orientation with his faith when he came home to live in conservative Utah.

“I was just scared. As a gay Utahn, I couldn’t imagine for myself a positive future,” said Williams, now 45 and an outspoken advocate for gay rights.

As a young man, Williams said he never would have envisioned a scene like the one that unfolded at Utah’s state Capitol on March 4, where state lawmakers, Mormon church leaders and LGBT advocates joined together to back a landmark proposal that bars discrimination against gay and transgender individuals while protecting the rights of religious groups and individuals.

“This is a historic day,” said Williams, the executive director of Equality Utah. “People from diverse backgrounds have come together to craft what no one thought was possible.”

The measure has a rare stamp of approval from the Mormon church and stands a high chance of passing in Utah, where the church is based and many state lawmakers and the Republican governor are members of the faith. The bill gets its first hearing on March 5.

State Sen. Stuart Adams, a Republican who led negotiations on the proposal, said at the news conference on March 4 that they’ve found a way to respect the rights of some while not infringing on the rights of others.

“If Utah can do this, my opinion, it can be done anywhere else in the nation,” Adams said.

The proposal prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation when it comes to housing or employment. Religious groups and organizations would be exempt from the requirement, as would Boy Scouts of America, which has a ban on gay adult Scout leaders and has close ties to the LDS Church.

The church said it is fully behind the legislation, which follows the principles set out in the faith’s recent nationwide call for laws that balance both religious rights and LGBT protections.

“In this approach, we acknowledged that neither side or no party may get all they want,” D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said. “It is better if both sides get most of what is desired than to have a winner-take-all where one side loses.”

LGBT activists have spent years pushing for a statewide non-discrimination law in Utah, but their efforts were fast-tracked this year after the Mormon church issued its call for this type of legislation.

Sen. Steve Urquhart, a St. George Republican who co-sponsored the bill, said the Boy Scouts were not involved in negotiations on the Utah proposal and did not request the exemption. He said the organization was included because of a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision recognizing the organization’s constitutional right to exclude gay members.

The Boy Scouts now allow openly gay youth.

Boy Scouts of America national spokesman Deron Smith said the organization didn’t have any comment on the legislation. Utah Boy Scouts leaders deferred comment to the national organization.

Scouts for Equality, an organization critical of the Scouts’ ban on gay leaders, criticized the exemption.

“The fundamental principle of non-discrimination means that there aren’t special exemptions,” Scouts for Equality executive director Zach Wahls said in a statement. “Non-discrimination means `non-discrimination,’ not `non-discrimination except for the Boy Scouts.'”

The compromise also attracted criticism from some conservatives.

“It’s heavy on protection for special classes of people that I don’t believe should be a special class, but it’s very light on religious protections,” Gayle Ruzicka, president of the conservative family-values group Utah Eagle Forum.

Ruzicka said the proposal needed more protections for religious individuals to act in accordance with their beliefs.

Beyond banning discrimination based on identity and sexual orientation, the proposal stipulates that employers can adopt “reasonable dress and grooming standards” and “reasonable rules and polices” for sex-specific restrooms and other facilities, as long as those standards also include accommodations for gender identity.

It protects the right of an individual employee to express their religious or moral beliefs in “a reasonable, non-disruptive or non-harassing way,” as long as it doesn’t interfere with the company’s business. It likewise bars employers from punishing someone who expresses those beliefs, as long as they don’t hurt business.

The Mormon campaign pushing for these types of laws is the latest example of a shift in tone by the LDS Church. While it has moved away from harsh rhetoric and is preaching compassion and acceptance, the church insists it is making no changes in doctrine and still believes that sex is against the law of God unless it’s within a marriage between a man and a woman.

Associated Press writers Brady McCombs and Kelly Catalfamo contributed to this story.

Saks claims Title VII doesn’t apply to transgender employees

The Human Rights Campaign on Jan. 8 suspended Saks Fifth Avenue’s Corporate Equality Index score. The action was taken following Saks’ claims in response to a lawsuit that Title VII protections don’t apply to transgender employees and that the company is not legally bound by its own LGBT equality policies.

While HRC said in a news release that it honors the right of the company to defend itself against allegations of misconduct, the arguments made in Saks’ court filings go well beyond arguing the veracity of the allegations.

Leyth Jamal, a transgender former employee of Saks, filed an employment discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 alleging discrimination and harassment/hostile work environment based on her gender identity.

In a motion to dismiss the case and in contrast to clearly established positions of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Saks claimed that the “Plaintiff’s discrimination and harassment claims fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because transsexuals are not a protected class under Title VII.”

Additionally, Saks claims that it is not bound by its own corporate non-discrimination policies because “employee handbooks are not contracts as a matter of law.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded in 2012 that sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes discrimination based on gender identity. The decision makes clear that transgender people across the country who have experienced workplace discrimination can file a claim with the EEOC under existing federal sex discrimination law.

Likewise, in December 2014, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the U.S. Department of Justice will recognize transgender discrimination as sex discrimination.

“Saks’ arguments are hugely concerning to us,” said Deena Fidas, director of HRC’s Workplace Equality Program. “In its court filings, Saks attempts to secure a motion to dismiss Ms. Jamal’s allegations by simultaneously calling into question the validity of its own non-discrimination policy and the larger, crucial protections afforded by Title VII. The policies our CEI advances are not window dressings for any company to prop up or disregard in the face of individual allegations of misconduct. Saks is publicly undercutting  the applicability of its own policies reported in the CEI and we must suspend Saks’ CEI score until further notice.”

HRC has contacted Saks and asked them to clarify the two issues and amend their legal filings.

Republican mayors urge passage of LGBT nondiscrimination bill

A group of Republican mayors — including Appleton Mayor Timothy Hanna — is encouraging the GOP-led House to pass a bill to ban workplace discrimination against LGBT people.

The Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP group, announced the endorsement of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which passed with bi-partisan support in the U.S. Senate but then stalled in the U.S. House, where Republican leaders have refused to allow any action.

In recent weeks, support has fizzled for the bill among civil rights leaders concerned about its broad religious exemptions, especially in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case that businesses can have religious beliefs.

However, the president, Senate leaders, Democrats in the House and some advocacy groups want to see ENDA enacted this year.

To reach that goal, Log Cabin Republicans launched a campaign to collect endorsements from Republicans across the U.S.

“In a workplace environment, people should be judged on their merit and the quality of their work product,” Mayor Brian Smith of Irvington, New York, said in a news release on July 30. “This is an issue that started for me 40 years ago when one of the greatest Mayors, Ed Koch, was pushing for this while he was in Congress. The fact that it hasn’t been passed in 40 years is a disgrace. I believe history will look poorly on anyone who doesn’t support ENDA, whether it’s 50 years from now or 10 years from now. America is — and should be — a place where the freedom to be who you are should not be a barrier to your ability to have a job and provide for your family.”

Log Cabin Republicans executive director Gregory T. Angelo said, “Right now, in a majority of states, there are no state laws prohibiting an employer from firing or refusing to hire someone simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is time for the House to hear the message of these Republican mayors: pass ENDA now and give all hard-working Americans the workplace protections they deserve.”

Republican mayors backing ENDA include, in alphabetical order:

• Scott Avedisian of Warwick, Rhode Island.

• Robert Blais of Lake George, New York.

• Dale Berman of North Aurora, Illinois.

• Jim Brainard of Carmel, Indiana.

• William Brown of Riverton, New Jersey.

• Kevin Burns of Geneva, Illinois.

• Frank Catalina of Peekskill, New York.

• Suzette Cooke of Kent, Washington.

• John Dennis of West Lafayette, Indiana.

• Nicholas DeSantis of New Stanton, Pennsylvania.

• Mark Epley of Southampton, New York.

• Timothy Hanna of Appleton, Wisconsin.

• Sophie Heymann of Closter, New Jersey.

• Scott Kaupin of Enfield, Connecticut.

• Marvin Natiss of North Hills, New York.

• Michael Nohilly of Interlaken, New Jersey.

• Sarah Reinhardt of Spring Park, Minnesota.

• Angelo “Skip” Saviano of Elmwood Park, Illinois.

• Sarah Sherwood of Abbeville, South Carolina.

• Brian Smith of Irvington, New York.

• Jill Techel of Napa, California.

• Pam Triolo of Lake Worth, Florida.

• Bruce Kennedy of Sea Cliff, New York.

Obama encourages Pride celebrants to work for progressive causes

President Barack Obama, with the first lady by his side, encouraged those gathered for the White House’s LGBT Pride celebration to work for other progressive causes.

The president praised those assembled at the White House for June 30 for their passion and drive for equal rights for LGBT people.

He said there still is work to be done, and promised to do his part, including asking his staff to prepare two executive orders intended to protect some LGBT employees left unprotected by the GOP-controlled House. One executive order would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Another executive order would prohibit discrimination in the federal government on the basis of gender identity.

The president, in his brief remarks, then urged Pride celebrants to continue to work for LGBT equality, and to also work to further other progressive causes.

“And I would also ask all of us to direct some of the energy and passion and resources of this movement towards other injustices that exist,” he said. “Because one of the things that I think we should have learned — Dr. King said an ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’  And that means that we’ve got to be able to set up a community that extends beyond our own particular narrow interests; we’ve got to make sure that we’re reaching out to others who need our help as well.

“And that means fighting for poor kids. And it means fighting for workers to get a decent wage. It means showing compassion for the undocumented worker who is contributing to our society and just wants a chance to come out of the shadows. It means fighting for equal pay for equal work. It means standing up for sexual — standing up against sexual violence wherever it occurs.  It means trying to eliminate any vestige of racial or religious discrimination and anti-Semitism wherever it happens.

“That’s how we continue our nation’s march towards justice and equality.  That’s how we build a more perfect union –- a country where no matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, who you love, you’ve got a chance to make it if you try.  You guys have shown what can happen when people of goodwill organize and stand up for what’s right.”

Just before the Pride celebration, the president delivered remarks in which he said he would not stand by and do nothing to reform the immigration system.

“Our country and our economy would be stronger today if House Republicans had allowed a simple yes-or-no vote on this bill or, for that matter, any bill. They’d be following the will of the majority of the American people, who support reform. And instead they’ve proven again and again that they’re unwilling to stand up to the tea party in order to do what’s best for the country,” the president in remarks made mid-afternoon in the Rose Garden.

Soon after, he was in the East Room celebrating Pride with dozens of invited guests.

“You guys have shown what can happen when people of goodwill organize and stand up for what’s right,” the president said. “And we’ve got to make sure that that’s not applied just one place, in one circumstance, in one time. That’s part of the journey that makes America the greatest country on Earth.”

Labor Secretary Tom Perez attended the event, along with other top officials in the administration, several federal judges, several mayors and legislators.

The White House served wine, Champagne, beef sandwiches and desserts, including chocolate-covered lollipops adorned with pink bows.

Earlier in June, Obama issued a Pride proclamation. He has issued one each of his years in the White House. Bill Clinton also issued Pride proclamations. George W. Bush did not and instead worked with cabinet members in his administration to block Pride celebrations in the federal government.

The Pride celebration was streamed live from whitehouse.gov.

Gay rights protesters defend action during first lady’s speech

First lady Michelle Obama threatened to leave a fundraiser on June 4 if an LGBT civil rights protester continued to interrupt her speech.

Obama was speaking at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Washington, D.C., when an activist in the audience shouted support for the president to sign an executive order providing some protections to LGBT workers.

Federal law does not prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity. A number of groups have called on the president to issue an executive order that would bar federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people.

The first lady, according to the pool report, moved toward the protester and said, “listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving.”

The protester was escorted from the event.

The GetEqual activist group issued a press release on the incident June 5. It said the organizers of the action were Ellen Sturtz of Washington, D.C., Autumn Leaf of Ohio, Wooten Gough of North Carolina and Amy Vesper of New Mexico.

Those activists issued a joint statement: “LGBT people in North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio and all over the country are dehumanized in our jobs, and we are forced into the closet in order to participate in the American dream.

“We value the first lady’s leadership and invite her to lead the charge within the Democratic Party to end employment discrimination. President Obama has an executive order sitting on his desk that can protect a quarter of the labor force in the U.S. from workplace discrimination, we will continue engaging leaders in the administration and the Democratic Party until President Obama fulfills a promise to our community made five years ago.”

A report released on June 4 – “A Broken Bargain: Discrimination, Fewer Benefits and More Taxes for LGBT Workers” – examines how antiquated and discriminatory laws make it more difficult for LGBT workers to provide for themselves and their families, and offers detailed policy recommendations for addressing those inequities.

The report was produced by a coalition of LGBT organizations, policy experts and business advocatesincludes the Movement Advancement Project, the Center for American Progress and the Human Rights Campaign, in partnership with Freedom to Work, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Partnership for Women and Families, Out and Equal Workplace Advocates, SEIU and Small Business Majority.

Puerto Rico’s House passes sweeping LGBT civil rights bill

The Puerto Rican House of Representatives today (May 24) approved anti-discrimination legislation that would protect LGBT people in employment, housing, governmental services, public accommodations and private entities.

The Senate approved the bill in a 15-11 vote last week, and Gov. Alejandro García Padilla has vowed to sign the measure into law.

Also today, the House passed legislation to add protections for sexual orientation, marital status and gender identity to the domestic violence law. That measure is now headed to the Senate.

Responding, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey said, “We celebrate with the Puerto Rican LGBT community this amazing milestone. The sweeping nondiscrimination bill that will become law with the signature of Gov. García Padilla is a testament to the resiliency and steadfastness of the Puerto Rican LGBT community and its allies.

“The Puerto Rican LGBT community has endured an epidemic of anti-LGBT violence that has taken more than 35 lives in the past three years. Nonetheless, this community has continued to stand strong in the face of adversity and today can celebrate this glorious victory. We thank all the activists that have been part of this effort, especially our own Pedro Julio Serrano, who has been a steadfast and uncompromising leader in this struggle.”

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, said, “Today is a thrilling day in Puerto Rican history. A decade ago, LGBT Puerto Ricans were criminals under the sodomy law, today we’re second-class citizens and when this bill is signed into law, we will be closer to achieving the first-class citizenship that we deserve. Equality is inevitable. Puerto Rico will be for all.”