A Message from the YDA GLBT Caucus on Puerto Rico
Posted by Kevin Bondelli on April 5, 2008
NOTE: THE YOUNG DEMOCRATS OF AMERICA SUPPORT THE OPPORTUNITY FOR STATEHOOD FOR PUERTO RICO. ALL PUERTO RICANS, INCLUDING THE TERRITORY’S LGBT POPULATION, ARE DENIED FULL PARTICIPATION AND REPRESENTATION IN OUR POLITICAL PROCESS. PLEASE TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO READ THIS MESSAGE FROM CAUCUS MEMBER EMILIO SEIJO AND TAKE ACTION TO SECURE STATEHOOD FOR PUERTO RICO AND WELCOME OUR LGBT PUERTO RICAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS FULLY INTO OUR POLITICAL MOVEMENT FOR LGBT EQUALITY.
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Dear GLBT Caucus member:
I am Emilio Seijo, Vice President of the Young Democrats of America Puerto Rico Chapter and a proud Gay Democrat. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my good friend Rachel, my good friend Kyle and all the members the GLBT Caucus, which are my extended family, for their support and enthusiasm in the discussion of this important issue for our Nation and our Community in the past YDA’s 2008 Winter National Conference.
Because of our relation to the United States we are tied by federal laws. As an example, federal laws knew as Selective Service, We Don’t Ask You Don’t Tell and Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). And you are thinking what the difference between you and us is because you are also tied to those federal laws; which is true. The difference is that we have neither Senators nor Representatives at Congress; we only have a Resident Commissioner who has only voice but no vote. We don’t have the power/strength to change those policies that affect us in a negative way.
This means that Puerto Rico GLBT community is deprived of power because our current political status.
A Commonwealth “is not a political status in the way that State, nation, and territory are. It is a word also used in the names of four States and another territory”. What the United Nations concluded was wrong.
Since Puerto Rico became a Commonwealth three plebiscites have been held, all of them by State sanction only. In the first plebiscite in 1967, the commonwealth received 60.4% votes, statehood 39% and independence 0.6%. In 1993, commonwealth got 48.6% votes, statehood 46.3%, independence 4.4%, and blank and void ballots 0.6%. The third plebiscite in 1998 was based on a U.S. House bill never enacted. The Governor and the State Legislature chose to conduct a plebiscite even without a federal sanction. With two additional options; the votes tallied were commonwealth 0.1%, free association 0.3%, statehood 46.5%, independence 2.5%, none of the above 50.3%, and blank and void ballots 0.3%. As you can see the tendency is towards a non-territorial status, and that Puerto Ricans are not satisfied with the current status.
In 2000, President Clinton established the President’s Task Force to address the issue of Puerto Rico’s status. The purpose of the Task Force was to identify options for the island’s future status and the process for realizing an option.
On December 2005, the Task Force filed its report, concluding that only two non-territorial options are recognized by the United States Constitution and made three recommendations. The two options are statehood and the independence. The three recommendations are:
1. [T]hat the Congress within a year provide for a Federally sanctioned plebiscite in which the people of Puerto Rico will be asked to state whether they wish to remain a U.S. territory subject to the will of Congress or to pursue a Constitutionally viable path toward a permanent non-territorial status with the United States. Congress should provide for this plebiscite to occur on a date certain.
2. [I]f the people of Puerto Rico elect to pursue a permanent non-territorial status, Congress should provide for an additional plebiscite allowing the people of Puerto Rico to choose between one of the two permanent non-territorial options. Once the people have selected one of the two options, Congress is encouraged to begin a process of transition toward the option.
3. If the people elect to remain as a territory… that a plebiscite occur periodically, as long as that status continues, to keep Congress informed of the people’s wishes.
Thanks to President Clinton’s initiative, of establishing the Task Force, at this time there is a bill in the House that deal with the status issue of Puerto Rico. The H.R. 900, which is based on the Report by The President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status.
On December 2007, the Task Force filed its second report, concluding again that only two non-territorial options are recognized by the United States Constitution and reiterates the previous recomendations on the 2005 Report.
I can not believe that the United States “intended” to “keep colonies forever …” and “justify 108 years of colonialism.”
As members of the YDA, we had received your support on several resolutions on this issue. In the past years, the National Committee has approved three important resolutions, recognizing the colonial status of Puerto Rico and urging the U.S. Congress to approve legislation where the people of Puerto Rico can vote for their future political relation with the United States, based on non-colonial non territorial formulas. Also, in August of 2005-2007, YDA adopted its platform, which states their support that Puerto Ricans should be given an opportunity to determine the future of Puerto Rico, either as United States’ state, or as an independent nation. The current platform has the same statement.
Now, if you are asking yourself, what can I do? It’s simple. A few calls, emails, and more. We need your help in this endeavor. You voted for your congressperson and you will be voting again, so therefore, you have the power to persuade and convince them to vote in favor of the H.R. 900. We do not have that kind of electoral power/strength since we do not participate in national elections. What we can do is ask for your support. We need you! You would be our best lobbyists. This is an ambitious plan, but I trust America and I trust you my fellow democrats.
P.S. Congressperson draft letter:
March __, 2008.
Dear Congresswoman (man) ________:
I am a young voter who believes in Democracy. For 108 year, we the United States have been keeping a colony, Puerto Rico. The Puerto Ricans do not have real voting representation in the national government and their island is not an independent nation. We have an obligation to enable them to have a democratic form of government at all levels because we promote Democracy.
At this time, there is one bill in the House that deal with the status issue of Puerto Rico. The bill is the H.R. 900, which is based on the reports (2005 and 2007) by The President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status and its recommendations.
I am supporting H.R. 900 because the H.R. 900 proposes a federally sanctioned plebiscite in which the people of Puerto Rico will be asked to state whether they wish to remain a U.S. territory subject to the will of Congress or to pursue a constitutionally viable path toward a permanent non-territorial status with the United States.
The real option that gives the people of Puerto Rico a tool to express their decision about what status they want is the H.R. 900.
I invite you to support the H.R. 900 with your vote!
Jane (John) Doe