Just when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers an important speech on world LGBT rights before the United Nations, Puerto Rico’s governor Luis Fortuño and Senate call for a provision that would eliminate sexual orientation, gender identity and expression from the penal code. A little odd, to say the least, in the context of the forthcoming Human Rights Day (December 10), not to mention a series of assaults in recent years on transgender people [see previous posts Horrific murder of gay adolescent shocks Puerto Rico and Assaults on Gay and Transgender People in Puerto Rico]. The Huffington Post reports:
In a controversial move, Puerto Rico may eliminate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) protections from the hate crimes statutes this week, according to reports.
Although LGBT citizens have been protected under the island’s hate crimes legislation since 2002, the Puerto Rico Senate approved a provision that would eliminate sexual orientation, gender identity and expression from the penal code last month. Also potentially at risk via the provision are ethnicity and religious beliefs, although political affiliation, age and disability would remain if legislators choose to approve the revised code.
The House is expected to vote on the revised penal code later this week during a special legislative session called by the island’s Republican Governor Luis Fortuno, reports Boy In Bushwick.
The potential revisions have since been slammed by a number of lawmakers. “To say this is appalling is an understatement,” Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said in a statement, according to the Washington Blade. “Excluding more people from protections under the law is exactly the wrong thing to do, especially right now. This year, violence has been on the upswing in Puerto Rico, particularly crimes — including scores of murders — against women, against members of the LGBT community and against immigrants, especially those from the Dominican Republic. The ruling party is aggressively rebuking these victims.”
Meanwhile, as EDGE Media Network reports, the Puerto Rico Police Department’s inadequate response to hate crimes by has been well documented, while the island has been hit with “an epidemic” of anti-LGBT murders in recent years, with nearly two dozen cases remaining unsolved. Among the most controversial was the 2009 death of 19-year-old Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, whose decapitated, dismembered and partially burned body was found on a road in central Puerto Rico, according to CNN. At the time, a police officer involved in the case reportedly said, “People who lead this type of lifestyle need to be aware that this will happen.”
In addition, there have reportedly been at least six documented murder cases of transgender people in Puerto Rico over the past year — but, to date, none have been recorded as hate crimes.