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Puerto Rico’s lawmakers to exclude LGBTQ persons from hate crime protections

Monday, December 5, 2011

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Puerto Rican Senate has approved an amendment to the island’s penal code that would strip protections for LGBTQ persons in the hate crime statues.

LGBTQ persons were not the only affected group of citizens as lawmakers also voted to remove protections for ethnicity and religious beliefs as well. The lower house is expected to vote on the amended penal code that would eliminate sexual orientation, gender identity and expression as soon as this week in a special session called by the island’s Republican Governor Luis Fortuño.

In a press conference Sunday, lawmakers Representative Héctor Ferrer and Senator Eduardo Bhatia joined with LGBTq Equality Rights and activists criticizing the amendment to the penal code’s hate crimes provisions:

“To eliminate these groups as protected categories is to invite the commission of hate crimes in Puerto Rico,” said Ferrer, as Vocero reported on Dec. 4 “It is a setback in the country’s public policy.”

“In an advanced society, this is dangerous for society,” added Bhatia, as Primera Hora reported.

Edge Media’s National News Editor, Washington D. C.-based Michael K. Lavers, reported Monday that political affiliation, age and disability would remain part of the revised hate crimes statute if legislators approve the new penal code and if Fortuño signs it into law.

Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force accused both Senate President Thomas Rivera-Schatz and Fortuño of homophobia.

“Basically they took out the communities hardest hit by hate crimes in Puerto Rico out of the hate crimes statute,” Serrano told EDGE, referring to both LGBTs and Dominicans who work on the island who continue to suffer disproportionate rates of hate and bias-motivated violence on the island. “It’s an outrage and now we’re calling upon the House to restore this to where it should be.”

Nearly two dozen LGBT Puerto Ricans have been murdered on the island since late 2009 in what Serrano and other activists have repeatedly described as an epidemic of anti-LGBT violence. These include gay teenager Jorge Steven López Mercado, who was stabbed to death before his decapitated, dismembered and partially burned body was dumped alongside a remote roadside near Cayey in Nov. 2009. Three LGBT Puerto Ricans-Alejandro Torres Torres, Karlota Gómez Sánchez and Ramón “Moncho” Salgado-were found dead within a 72-hour period in June.

The Justice Department cited in inadequate response to hate crimes as among the Puerto Rico Police Department’s numerous deficiencies in a damning report it released in September. The Puerto Rico Department of Justice’s own reports indicate that prosecutors have yet to convict anyone of a bias-motive crime on the island.

[...]

“Puerto Rico’s recent rash of hate crimes against the LGBT community is a sad reminder of why hate crimes laws are needed,” added Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Paul Guequierre. “Removing sexual orientation and gender identity from the law would set Puerto Rico back and endanger LGBT people in the commonwealth.”

Puerto Rico is an U.S. territory. Islanders are residents of the United States, and are able to travel freely to the mainland, but do not vote in national elections.

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48 more reader comments:

  1. HEY! That’s wrong…

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:26pm
  2. What reason could they possibly have? Other than ignorance, of course…

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:27pm
  3. What the fuck. And this place wants to be the 51st state? Please.

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:28pm
  4. Puerto Rico has some of the worst cases of LGBTQ hate crimes. Especially among the transgender community. This is so sad…

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:29pm
  5. Ridiculous.

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:31pm
  6. wtf?! i take a break from my paper on strides in sexuality and LGBT rights in Latin America, and i read this. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK Puerto Rico. This is heartbreaking. As a puerto Rican i am so disappointed. Que estas pasando en la isla de mis padres? Isla de encanto? pshhhhh

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:33pm
  7. Awwww :(

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:33pm
  8. Que??? Mi gente, I’m disappointed!! :(

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:34pm
  9. I am amazed, I always thought Puerto Rico was more tolerant then the US.

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:35pm
  10. Why are people liking this?

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:35pm
  11. Ugh, then what’s the fucking point? “We don’t endorse discrimination, unless we do”.

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:36pm
  12. No, Puerto Rico has always been a horribly homophobic place. Some people can see traces of acceptance, but when the influential leaders are able to make such changes in the law, then hope dies.

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:36pm
  13. As a puerto rician I am dissappointed! :(

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:38pm
  14. Surprised how?

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:46pm
  15. Demaseado! So very disappointed.

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:48pm
  16. Thank you catholic influence…

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:54pm
  17. Not knowing much about Puerto Rico, but admiring singers like Olga Tanon and other recording artists who hail from there, I had a warm fuzzy feeling towards the country… until now!

    Its bigoted homophobic and transphobic people need a two by four whack across their heads to wake up and get educated on who the LGBT community are, and step into the 21st century — since they are apparently still mental laggards who are stuck in the 19th one (not the 20th). :/

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:56pm
  18. I am so sad that this has happened on the island my forefathers came from. I place the blame on the crooked Governor and the Catholic Church!

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 11:30pm
  19. lyk wtf? so i guess since its a “US Territory” must mean its still the backwater 3rd world toilet bowl great job at moving forward PR. Thank god I cancelled my winter cruise there!!!

    Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 11:43pm
  20. OUCH!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 12:05am
  21. Con tanto joto allla who would have thought?!?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 12:05am
  22. Sad to see the comments posted about P.R. Every country and state has a process. Process ebb and flow. And this one process, equality across ALL of America INCLUDING Puerto Rico, is one that is being fought…we can’t give up neither in CA, NYC, or P.R. And REMIND everyone we are here and we are EQUAL in this Universe and no law can take that away…it’s up to EVERYONE to raise up and do something: vote–NOT complain about P.R. w/o even being there or knowing the people and ALL their struggles…

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 12:25am
  23. What the fck.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 1:24am
  24. Next time you see a tourism add for Puerto Rico remember this…hit them where it hurts. In the wallet !!!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 2:11am
  25. WTF!!!!!!! how dare they!!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 2:30am
  26. Que? Mi gente.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 2:36am
  27. utterly stupid

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 2:52am
  28. Shades of Hitler!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 3:38am
  29. Instead of taking a leap forward, we just took a giant step back, sad day 4 equality.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 3:53am
  30. say yes to hate!!?? ignorance is bliss….

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 4:53am
  31. I guess it’s now open season on beating up faggots again?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 5:02am
  32. Every puertoriqueno needs to be heard. This cannot be allowed to stand. Justicia para todos!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 5:50am
  33. Not surprised at all.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 6:41am
  34. Puting the seal of approval on gay -bashing. Unbelieveable!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 7:58am
  35. Not surprised when I read this news leatter. For those that didn’t know beeing LGBT in the island has been ilegal for decades but like every other law in PR no one inforces them. How ever many of you belive most Puertoriquens back this 100% but read the news leatter again, the ones responsible for this outrage are Thomas Rivera-Schatz and Fortuño; and not the general public. The goverment in Puerto rico is very coropted and the people on top are only interested in personal gains so when they are comiting unlawful acts they do something stupid “like this” so they can get away with something else! “Don’t blame the us all for the actions of the few”

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 8:27am
  36. That is just pathetic! No wonder a lot of gay men and women from that gorgeous island are living on the mainland US now! And even on the mainland there is still homophobia…how effing sad :(

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 9:04am
  37. a-holes!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 9:06am
  38. This makes me sick to my stomach. What is wrong with my people? Porque no tiene explicacion. I go home and it seems there’s a christian church every two blocks. But the Christ certainly does not frequent these places. Not blaming the Christians but we all know that Puertoricans are deeply religious people. Where’s the love?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 9:42am
  39. As a german…..I can not believe something Like this is possible. So my decision is Not to travel to this Island and to Zell others to Do likewise…

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 9:55am
  40. what the fuck

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 10:05am
  41. How could this possibly have come about.

    And why?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 1:35pm
  42. Won’t be vacationing there, for sure.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 2:50pm
  43. The e-mail address for the Governor’s office is webmaster@govpr.org. Send him an e-mail telling him this legislation will be hurtful to the LGBT community in Puerto Rico.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 2:55pm
  44. As a Puerto Rican i am so disappointed. This is just wrong..SMH

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 5:47pm
  45. Had to be this idiot who shares my last name! QUE NOS PASA PUERTO RICO?!?!?!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 8:47pm
  46. Once again republicans they are evil no matter where u live
    People need to wake up. This will set the Island back to the dark ages. I hope they do lose tourist…

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 8:49pm
  47. Why am I not surprised, Puerto Rico and most Hispanic countries (except Argentina) make Texas look a bit liberal.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 1:12am
  48. Every crime is a hate crime. What we need to do is improve the education (which is unquestionably the foremost problem affecting PR and the continental US) and the effectivity of the prosecution.

    It makes no difference in killing a woman, man, child (be that person white, black, gay, or whatever) we are all equal in the eyes of the law. This laws further subdivide a society by creating laws favoring other “groups”.

    If you carjack someone and kill him/her you get more prison time for the victim being gay? I’m sorry but no. I say apply the maximum allowable sentence, doesn’t matter who the victim is. If that’s the case, I’ll start saying I’m bisexual.

    (And BTW, so you don’t stereotype people for their opinions and think I’m a religious right-wing a**h***, this is an unabashed, atheist, liberal, with a lesbian associate at work talking)

    Posted on Monday, December 12, 2011 at 12:31pm