Thursday, December 8, 2011

Human Rights Campaign Again Blasts Proposal to Remove LGBTs from Puerto Rico Hate Crimes Law

The country's largest LGBT rights organization has once again blasted a proposed provision of Puerto Rico's new penal code that would eliminate sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and other categories from the island's hate crimes 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.”

Singer Ricky Martin, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez are among those who have publicly spoken out against the proposed provision. Jorge Sepulveda posted a petition to late on Wednesday, Dec. 7, that urges Puerto Rican lawmakers to reject the measure.

"It is ironic that in the same week, we see President Obama and Hillary Clinton going to international groups and telling them to pass more laws to protect minorities, then in Puerto Rico you see the government doing the exact opposite," he told Boy in Bushwick earlier on Thursday, Dec. 8. "It’s shameful to see that."

Puerto Rico lawmakers are poised to debate the proposed provision when they consider the revised penal code during a special legislative session this week. Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz criticized House Judiciary Committee President Liza Fernández’s criticism of the proposed amended hate crimes law in an interview with Vocero on Wednesday, Dec. 7.

Gutierrez urged Attorney General Eric Holder earlier on Thursday that he create a federal task force to investigate and prosecute hate crimes on the island. The U.S. Department of Justice cited the Puerto Rico Police Department's inadequate response to hate crimes as one of the PRPD's endemic deficiencies in a scathing report it issued in September. The Puerto Rico Department of Justice's own statistics indicate that prosecutors have not convicted anyone under the island's hate crimes law.

"If Puerto Rico doesn't want to protect its residents from attacks, violence and murder, then the federal authorities need to step in and ensure the most basic rights of life and liberty are protected," wrote Gutierrez.

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