Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Puerto Rico House of Representatives President Jenniffer González announced on Monday, Dec. 5, that she would review a proposed provision to the penal code that would remove sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and ethnic ethnicity from the island’s hate crimes law.
“I have been very consistent about hate crimes,” she said, according to Primera Hora. “I have presented special laws against hate crimes that are there, so I am on the record about this topic.”
González’s announcement coincided with House Judiciary Committee President Liza Fernández’s criticism of the proposed amendment that the Puerto Rico Senate approved late last month.
“For me, it was an error to eliminate these factors from the code,” she said, as el Nuevo Día reported on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other activists and elected officials blasted the proposed provision. New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and New York City Councilmembers Melissa Mark-Viverito, Rosie Mendez, Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer urged lawmakers to reject the measure in a joint statement they issued late on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
“When we take into account the horrific hate crimes that have occurred in recent years, this decision is even more egregious and nonsensical," said Mark-Viverito, who was born in San Juan. "The Puerto Rican government is creating a dangerous environment for those who have been and potentially could be attacked or even killed solely on the basis of their identity without any additional penalties for the perpetrators. This strategy to de-classify hate violence directed against LGBT Puerto Ricans and ethnic groups as a separate crime cannot stand."
Nearly two dozen LGBT Puerto Ricans have been murdered on the island since gay teenager Jorge Steven López Mercado’s decapitated, dismembered and partially burned body was found along a remote roadside near Cayey in 2009. With more than 1,000 reported homicides so far this year, 2011 has already proven to be the deadliest year in Puerto Rico.
The U.S. Department of Justice noted the Puerto Rico Police Department’s inadequate response to hate crimes as among the PRPD’s endemic deficiencies in a damning report it released in September. A federal DOJ spokesperson on Monday declined to comment on the proposed hate crimes provision, but the Puerto Rico Department of Justice’s own statistics confirm that prosecutors have not convicted anyone under the island’s hate crimes law.
Singer Ricky Martin added his voice to the growing chorus of those who oppose the proposed provision.
“All citizens are equal under the law and have, without exception, the right to equal protection under the law,” he wrote on his website, citing the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The House is expected to vote on the revised penal code later this week during a special legislative session.