Washington– The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization – is strongly condemning maneuvers by lawmakers in Puerto Rico to strip sexual orientation and gender identity from a 2004 hate crime law. The legislation – under consideration in the Puerto Rican House of Representatives – also would remove gender expression and ethnicity from the law.
“It would be unconscionable for Puerto Rico’s leaders to remove sexual orientation and gender identity from existing hate crime protections,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “This sends the dangerous message that it is acceptable to harass or harm LGBT people and would leave victims of hate crimes with no legal recourse. I urge Puerto Rico’s lawmakers not only to reject this homophobic legislation, but to push more aggressively to protect the well-being of LGBT Puerto Ricans.”
In 2009, gay teen Jorge Steven López Mercado was brutally murdered in Puerto Rico. He was badly burned and his body was dismembered. Since then, violent crimes against LGBT people in Puerto Rico continue to be a serious problem – and law enforcement has faced criticism for not taking hate crimes seriously enough. Since Mercado’s death in 2009, it is believed approximately two dozen people have been murdered in violent crimes influenced by an anti-LGBT bias – six in the past year alone in which the victims were transgender.
The attempt by Puerto Rico’s lawmakers to put members of their LGBT community at increased risk for harm comes the same week the Obama administration announced a historic roadmap for tackling LGBT human rights abuses across the globe. Addressing an international audience earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton equated LGBT rights to universal human rights.
“Earlier this week, President Obama and Secretary Clinton made a bold commitment to aggressively protect human rights abuses, specifically those committed against LGBT people. It sent a clear message that the policy of the United States was that all people – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity – are deserving of the same dignity and respect,” added Solmonese. “Puerto Rico’s lawmakers should take heed of this and follow suit to ensure that LGBT Puerto Ricans can live in safety rather than an environment that tacitly condones hate crimes.”
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.