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Congressman Luis Gutierrez

Representing the 4th District of Illinois

Rep. Gutiérrez Speaks Out On Puerto Rican Statehood Leader Rivera Schatz’ Homophobic Behavior

July 12, 2017
Press Release
In floor speech and letter to Democratic Leadership, Gutiérrez warns Dems that Sen. Rivera Schatz’s homophobia is emblematic of deeper problems affecting the statehood push in Puerto Rico
Issues: 

Washington, DC – On Wednesday, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) spoke on the House floor about homophobic comments made by the President of the Puerto Rican Senate Thomas Rivera Schatz, who is a leader of the statehood effort in Puerto Rico.  Congressman Gutiérrez called recent remarks made by Sen. Rivera Schatz “a troubling incident” – referring to a radio interview in which the Senator repeatedly referred to an openly gay, female public official as “Mister” (or “Señor”) in order to call attention to – and denigrate – her sexual orientation. 

On Tuesday, Rep. Gutiérrez sent a letter (link) to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) calling her attention to the statements made by Sen. Rivera Schatz, which were directed at Ana Matosantos, the only woman on Puerto Rico’s Financial Oversight and Management Board (the Junta de Supervisión Fiscal).  Ms. Matosantos was appointed to the board by Leader Pelosi when the Junta was created in 2016.

In his floor speech, Rep. Gutiérrez said:

It is important that people hear about how women and the LGBT community are treated by the highest levels of the Puerto Rican government and the values and politics that run deeply throughout the politics of statehood for Puerto Rico.

There is a renewed push for statehood for Puerto Rico, including a plebiscite in June (which was boycotted by every party except the statehood party and in which only 23% of those eligible voted) and a new Equality Commission for Puerto Rico (Comisión de la Igualdad para Puerto Rico) appointed by the Governor to lobby Congress – and especially Democrats – on statehood.

Last week, Rep. Gutiérrez issued a press release (link) denouncing Sen. Rivera Schatz’s offensive comments, which came during a radio interview with Carmen Jovet on AM 610 NotiUno radio (link) and drew criticism from an array of pro-LGBT advocates (link).

The Illinois Congressman said on the floor today:

I don’t see Rivera Schatz as one bad apple – he is a bad apple that exemplifies and is a voice for the other leaders in his party. So, as a Puerto Rican and as a supporter of equality, all of this is deeply disturbing to me and a lot of other people. Gender and LGBT equality issues are deeply ingrained values of the Democratic Party and I think they are core issues that bind Democrats together – issues of justice, opportunity, and fair-play. This is why I wrote a letter this week to Leader Pelosi and the other leaders of my party in the House. 

So when the leaders of the Statehood movement visit Democrats in Congress to speak about equality and justice for Puerto Ricans, I want my colleagues to think about the agenda they are pursuing in Puerto Rico and the extent to which they have a very different approach to fairness and equality on the Island.

Rep. Gutiérrez concluded his remarks in Spanish, saying:

How can they [statehooders] be taken seriously about equality when their agenda in the legislature is to take away those rights from women, the LGBT community, students, peaceful protesters and others?  That is the fundamental hypocrisy I have pointed out to my Democratic colleagues, right now and in private meetings and correspondences.

In his letter on Tuesday to Leader Pelosi (and copied to other Democratic Leaders), Congressman Gutiérrez wrote:

It is my hope that you will consider the bigoted comments and sentiments of Sen. Rivera Schatz. Should he appeal to you and your commitment to civil and equal rights with regard to his desire for statehood for Puerto Rico, I urge you to take the opportunity to challenge him on his supposed commitment to the same values and goals.

A videotape of the Congressman’s floor speech is here: https://youtu.be/JyAJxAb5Io8

Letter to Leader Nancy Pelosi from Rep. Gutiérrez: PDF icon071117 Gutierrez Letter to Leader Pelosi re Rivera Schatz + Matosantos.pdf

The text as prepared for delivery is pasted below.

Rep. Gutiérrez is in his 13th term representing the Fourth District of Illinois.  He has lived, worked and studied in Puerto Rico at various times in his life and was born (in Chicago) to parents who themselves migrated from Puerto Rico in the 1950s.  He is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and is the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Floor Remarks

July 17, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I want to bring to everyone’s attention – and especially my Democratic colleagues – a troubling incident that transpired over the recess.

It is important that people hear about how women and the LGBT community are treated by the highest levels of the current Puerto Rican government and the values and politics that run deeply throughout the politics of statehood for Puerto Rico. 

It is fair to say that in the era of Trump, admitting a Spanish-speaking Caribbean country as the 51st state would depend on the strength of Democratic votes, so it is important for my Democratic colleagues in particular to understand who the statehooders really are and what they really stand for, beyond their rhetoric in Washington.

The President of the Senate of Puerto Rico, Thomas Rivera Schatz, is a key leader of the Statehood Party. 

In a recent interview on NotiUno radio, he was asked about the Financial Oversight and Management Board, known as la Junta de Supervisión Fiscal.

This is the controversial board created by Congress a year ago to take over financial and fiscal decisions in Puerto Rico and to prioritize the payment of Puerto Rico’s debt to Wall Street.

I was one of the chief opponents of the “PROMESA” legislation that created the Junta and I have spoken out against it on numerous occasions.

But it wasn’t what the statehood Senate President said about the Junta that was so offensive; it was how he talked about one of its board members – in fact, the only woman on the board and an appointee nominated by Democrats in the House.

Ana Matosantos has impeccable, bipartisan qualifications and also happens to be an openly gay woman.

So during the interview, the Senate President and Statehood leader referred to Ms. Matosantos as “Mister” Matosantos, using the masculine pronoun “Señor.”

He did it multiple times so that listeners would not miss his disdain for lesbians and for women.

It was no accident or slip of the tongue.  Given an opportunity to apologize or backtrack, Rivera Schatz has declined to back down.

And this is not the first time he has displayed his contempt for women and for the gay and lesbian community.  His agenda is clear and he knows he has many like-minded allies in Puerto Rico’s Statehood movement.

Every time he has had an opportunity to block civil and human rights protections for LGBT individuals, he does it with gusto.  He goes out of his way to belittle gay and lesbian citizens, even when they are the victims of hate crimes.

And to be clear, I don’t see Rivera Schatz as one bad apple – he is a bad apple that exemplifies and is a voice for the other leaders in his party.

So, as a Puerto Rican and as a supporter of equality, all of this is deeply disturbing to me and a lot of other people. 

Gender and LGBT equality issues are deeply ingrained values of the Democratic Party and I think they are core issues that bind Democrats together – issues of justice, opportunity, and fair-play.

So when the leaders of the Statehood movement call upon Democrats in Congress to speak about equality and justice for Puerto Ricans, I want my colleagues to think about the agenda they are pursuing in Puerto Rico and the extent to which they have a very different approach to fairness and equality on the Island.

Now, in closing, I would like to offer a few words to the Puerto Rican people in their own language, and I will provide a translation to the desk.

SPANISH

Los valores de la igualdad y del trato justo y equitativo son valores fundamentales que la mayoría de los puertorriqueños atesoramos profundamente en nuestros corazones.

Así que cuando el Partido Estadista, el PNP, permite que figuras polarizantes y divisivas como el Senador Rivera Schatz sean su cara y su principal representante en el Senado, eso me hace a mí y a muchos otros sentirnos escépticos en cuanto a los argumentos de los estadistas que usan palabras como “igualdad” y “justicia” en Washington, pero luchan en contra de la igualdad y la justicia en Puerto Rico. 

¿Cómo esperan que se les tome en serio al hablar de “igualdad” cuando su agenda en la Legislatura es el quitarles derechos a las mujeres, a la comunidad LGBT, a los estudiantes, y a los que se manifiestan y protestan pacíficamente?

Esta es la fundamental hipocresía que le he señalado a mis colegas Demócratas, aquí, ahora, y en reuniones privadas, y a través de correspondencia.

Si el movimiento estadista en realidad tuviese un compromiso con la igualdad, actuarían conforme a la igualdad y no meramente usando el término como un lema cuando les conviene.

ENGLISH

Mr. Speaker, I yield back. 

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TRANSLATION OF SPANISH PORTION:

Core values of equality and fair treatment values I know most Puerto Ricans hold deeply in our hearts.

So when the Statehood Party allows divisive and polarizing figures like Senator Rivera Schatz to be their face and their leading advocate in the Senate, it makes me and many others skeptical about the arguments we hear from people who support statehood say the words “equality” and “justice” in Washington, but fight against equality and justice in Puerto Rico. 

How can they be taken seriously about equality when their agenda in the legislature is to take away those rights from women, the LGBT community, students, peaceful protesters and others?

That is the fundamental hypocrisy I have pointed out to my Democratic colleagues, right now and in private meetings and correspondences.

If the statehood movement is really committed to equality, they should act accordingly and not just use it as a slogan when it suits them.

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