He wrote: “Today we sign and executive order that prohibits conversion or restrictive therapies to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of minors. These therapies lack a scientific basis and, in addition, cause unnecessary harm and suffering to LGBT people.”
Rosselló first announced his decision last week, days after a bill on the subject was blocked in the House of Representatives by his own party, the New Progressive Party.
In explaining his motivations to take a decisive stance against conversion therapy, Rosselló said: “I strive for Puerto Rico to be a society in which everyone, no matter who they love, can be accepted and live without fear of persecution. This includes the most vulnerable in society, our children, who must be supported and loved. Conversion therapy does not benefit anyone in any way, it only causes unimaginable pain and suffering.”
The DC-based LGBT rights group Human Rights Campaign welcomed the executive order in a statement.
“We commend Governor Rossello for his leadership in issuing this order to protect LGBT minors in Puerto Rico,” said HRC Senior Legislative Counsel Xavier Persad.
Persad added: “The dangerous and debunked practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ not only doesn’t work — it can have life-threatening consequences. This is why it has been condemned by every major medical association in our country.”
Puerto Ricans are American citizens even if the island is considered an unincorporated organised territory within the US commonwealth rather than a state—they can vote in party primaries but do not elect representatives to Congress or the Senate.
Federal US law applies to Puerto Rico, as the First Circuit Court of Appeals reminded US District Court Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez in April 2016, when the lower court tried to ban the implementation of the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the nation.
In banning conversion therapy on minors, Puerto Rico joins 15 US states and the District of Columbia in enacting such protections towards LGBT youth.
The LGBT community in Puerto Rico remains target of prejudice and violence. Earlier this year, the murder of 24-year-old outspoken gay trap artist Kevin Fret shocked the community but, as Paper magazine noted, also highlighted persistent homophobia against LGBT people.