This is urgent, folks. Public hearings on the proposed revisions of the penal code are scheduled to take place today (Thursday) and Friday. Read Joe’s article below, then click this link and follow Ricky Martin’s lead by signing the petition. ~~Laurel


Advocates Tell Puerto Rico: Do Not Eliminate Hate Crimes Protections

Guest post by Joe Mirabella

In the past two years, more than two dozen LGBT people in Puerto Rico have been murdered, often in very graphic and violent crimes. Puerto Rico’s own police department has been singled out by the Justice Department for failing to deal with the high levels of violence faced by LGBT citizens.

Yet at a time when violence toward the LGBT community in Puerto Rico is high, its legislature is poised to remove protections from their existing hate crimes law for people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Outraged that the government would consider removing hate crimes protections for a population already facing epic levels of violence, Jorge Supelveda started a petition on Change.org urging the Puerto Rico House of Representatives to keep their hate crimes laws intact.

Jorge grew up in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, and went to college in San Juan. In 2003, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he works for the Federal government. Jorge’s parents and brothers still live in Puerto Rico.

Having lived in D.C. for the last several years, he has learned how good life can be for gays and lesbians. But someday he would like to return home.

“I saw how different things can be,” Jorge said. “I would hate to return home to a place where me and my people are not protected.”

In recent years, Puerto Rico has been plagued with hate crimes against LGBT people, yet the police neglected to prosecute anyone under this statute. As Michael Lavers has reported:

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.

Many elected officials, including U.S. Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, spoke out against the possible elimination of hate crimes protections for LGBT Puerto Ricans.

“Prejudice, discrimination and hate crimes cannot be tolerated, whether they are based on race, religion or sexual orientation,” said U.S. Rep Nydia M. Velázquez. “The current effort to weaken hate crime protections is an unconscionable affront to our community and Puerto Rico’s legislature should defeat it.”

Jorge hopes his petition on Change.org will show Puerto Rico’s House that Puerto Ricans want all people protected under the law.

Sign Jorge’s petition on Change.org:
http://www.change.org/petitions/president-puerto-rico-house-of-representatives-do-not-eliminate-hate-crime-protections

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

[Text of the petition below the fold.]

Text of the petition letter:

Do Not Eliminate Hate Crime Protections

Dear Government Officials,

In a time when governments around the world are creating new laws to increase protections to their citizens, it is sad to see how the Government of Puerto Rico is creating amendments to remove hate crime protections.

The amendment to the PR penal code that would remove hate as an aggravating factor to crimes based on prejudice will negatively affect me and my loved ones. Please stop this amendment.

~~

En esta época cuando los gobiernos en todo el mundo están creando nuevas leyes para aumentar las protecciones de sus cuidadanos, es una lástima ver cómo el Gobierno de Puerto Rico crea enmiendas para quitar protecciones.

La enmienda del Código Penal que eliminaría los agravantes de crímenes de odio me afectará negativamente a mí y a muchos de mis seres queridos. Por favor, detenga esta enmienda.

Sincerely,
[Your name]