SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- 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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  • A Majority Didn't Support Statehood

    With just 46 percent of the ballots cast, statehood doesn't have the support of the majority of the Puerto Rican electorate.

  • Luis Fortuño's Gone

    Puerto Rican voters not only didn't support statehood, they narrowly voted to oust one of the biggest proponents of statehood from the governorship. With Alejandro Garcia Padilla of the Popular Democratic Party taking office, the idea will likely lose steam.

  • Obama Isn't Into It

    "The status of Puerto Rico should be decided by the residents of Puerto Rico," Obama said last year. "If the plebiscite, or the referendum, that takes place in Puerto Rico indicates that there is a strong preference from the majority of the Puerto Rican people, I think that will influence how Congress approaches any actions that might be taken to address status issues." That's not the way the vote went down.

  • Puerto Ricans Are Already Citizens

    Many Puerto Ricans who favor statehood already live in U.S. states. Puerto Ricans received citizenship, along with military conscription, in 1917. Today, some <a href="http://www.pewhispanic.org/2011/06/13/a-demographic-portrait-of-puerto-ricans/">4.6 million people of Puerto Rican origin live</a> in the United States, compared to 3.7 million on the island, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. In the words of historian Angel Collado-Schwartz, “Statehood is available to all Puerto Ricans -- you have 50 states to move to.”

  • Congress Isn't Interested

    Congressional aides tell The Hill that Congress won't both with legislation to initiate the process to <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/266799-congress-expected-to-ignore-puerto-ricos-statehood-vote">bring Puerto Rico into the union</a> as a state because the vote wasn't convincing enough. One staffer viewed the status vote as a "statistical fiction."