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Volleyball player murdered in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, gay news, Washington Blade

Puerto Rico’s hate crimes law includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. (Graphic by Raimond Spekking)

FAJARDO, Puerto Rico – A Puerto Rican man faces murder and other charges for allegedly stabbing a gay volleyball player to death last week.

Primera Hora reported Jesús David Hernández Otero’s family reported him missing on March 18 after he told his sister that he would return home shortly. Surfers at a nearby beach the following day found Hernández’s body with multiple stab wounds.

Authorities on March 19 arrested Neftalí Castillo Cabrera in connection with Hernández’s death.

Police officials told Primera Hora that Castillo attacked Hernández — who had been friends with his alleged killer since childhood and played on the same volleyball team with him — because he was gay. Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a local LGBT advocacy group, has urged authorities to investigate Hernández’s murder as a hate crime.

“They should not be afraid to bring an aggravating hate crime charge,” Serrano told el Nuevo Día on March 24.

Puerto Rico’s hate crimes law includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Gov. Alejandro García Padilla last May signed into law a bill that bans anti-LGBT discrimination in the U.S. commonwealth.

26
Mar
2014

Lesbian couple files marriage lawsuit in Puerto Rico

Ivonne Álvarez Velez, Pedro Julio Serrano, Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, Ada Conde Vidal, gay news, Washington Blade

Ivonne Álvarez Velez, left, with Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s and Ada Conde Vidal. (Photo courtesy of Pedro Julio Serrano)

A lesbian couple on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit that seeks recognition of their Massachusetts marriage in Puerto Rico.

“We wish to enjoy the same social privileges and contractual rights that are conferred by the commonwealth on individuals in opposite-sex marriages and not to be treated as we are being treated as second class citizens differentiated, alienated and discriminated in comparison to other U.S. citizens,” say Ada Conde Vidal and Ivonne Álvarez Velez in their lawsuit they filed in U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico in San Juan. “Puerto Rico law precluding recognition of lawful same-sex marriages denies us those rights in violation of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

Conde and Álvarez, who have been together for nearly 14 years, exchanged vows in Massachusetts in 2004 shortly after the state’s same-sex marriage law took effect.

Puerto Rican lawmakers in 1999 amended the U.S. commonwealth’s civil code to ban recognition of same-sex marriages – even those legally performed in other jurisdictions. Unions in which one person is transgender are also not recognized.

Conde, who is a lawyer, says in the lawsuit that Álvarez could not make medical decisions on behalf of her daughter who had open heart surgery because Puerto Rican officials do not recognize their relationship. The couple is also unable to file their income taxes in the U.S. commonwealth as a married couple.

“If she dies, I want my marriage legally recognized,” Conde told the Washington Blade on Wednesday. “If I am not recognized, I will not have any rights to request her estate.”

The lawsuit names Puerto Rico Health Secretary Ana Rius Armendariz and Wanda Llovet Díaz, director of the Puerto Rico Demographic Registry, as defendants.

“The commonwealth of Puerto Rico statutory provision has created a legal system in which civil marriage is restricted solely and exclusively to opposite-sex couples, and in which gay and lesbian individuals are denied the right to enter into a civil marriage,” say Conde and Álvarez. “The commonwealth of Puerto Rico statutory provision also deprives same-sex couples of federal marital privileges and benefits that, upon information and belief are available to same-sex couples who marry under state laws authorizing such benefits but that are not available to plaintiffs and other same-sex couples in Puerto Rico.”

18 states and D.C. have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver next month is scheduled to hold oral arguments in two cases challenging the constitutionality of state constitutional amendments that ban same-sex marriage in Oklahoma and Utah. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., in May is slated to hear a case that challenges Virginia’s gay nuptials ban.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in the coming months is expected to hear oral arguments in a challenge to Nevada’s same-sex marriage ban. A federal appeals court in New Orleans will likely hear a similar case that challenges Texas’ gay nuptials prohibition after U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia last month ruled the state’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday placed a hold on same-sex marriages in Michigan pending an appeal of a lower court ruling that struck down the state’s gay nuptials ban.

A federal judge late last month ordered Kentucky to recognize marriages legally performed outside the state. Gays and lesbians in Florida, Alabama, Arizona, West Virginia and other states have also filed lawsuits seeking the right to marry since the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The federal government recognizes legally married same-sex couples for tax and other purposes.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last month announced the Justice Department will now recognize same-sex marriages in civil and criminal cases and extend full benefits to gay spouses of police officers and other public safety personnel – even in states that have yet to allow nuptials for gays and lesbians. He said a few weeks later that state attorneys general do not have to defend same-sex marriage bans.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring are among those who have declined to defend same-sex marriage bans in their respective states.

Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, noted to the Blade that Gov. Alejandro García Padilla last June applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling that applies to the American commonwealth. Serrano added he hopes Puerto Rico Justice Secretary César Miranda will not defend the island’s same-sex marriage ban in court.

“It is incumbent upon them to do the right thing if they truly believe in LGBT equality,” Serrano told the Blade, noting García has signed four pro-LGBT measures into law since taking office in January 2013. “It’s incumbent upon them not to defend this law because it’s unjust.”

Multiple attempts to reach the Puerto Rico Justice Department for comment on Conde and Álvarez’s lawsuit on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

“I’m a U.S. citizen,” Conde told the Blade. “I have the same rights in the Constitution no matter where I am – in a territory, a commonwealth or a state. I’m claiming my full citizenship and equality as any other citizen in the United States of America.”

26
Mar
2014

Puerto Rico Senate committee holds adoption bill hearing

Pedro Julio Serrano, NGLTF, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Puerto Rico, San Juan, LGBT equality, adoption, gay news, Washington Blade

Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force testifies in support of a Puerto Rico adoption bill on Friday, May 17 (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A Puerto Rican Senate committee on Friday held a hearing on a bill that would extend second parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians in the U.S. territory.

“This Assembly must recognize the rights of minorities, even if this recognition is unpopular,” Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said during the Puerto Rico Senate Judiciary, Security and Veterans Committee hearing on Senate Bill 437 that Sen. Mari Tere González López of Mayaguëz introduced in March. “Our democracy is based on the protection of those minority groups from the possible abuse of the majority.”

The hearing took place nearly three months after the territory’s Supreme Court narrowly upheld a ban on gay second parent adoptions in response to the case of Dr. Ángeles Acosta Rodríguez who sought to adopt the child her partner of 25 years, Dr. Carmen Milagros Vélez Vega, conceived through in vitro fertilization.

The dozens of SB 437 hearing supporters who attended the hearing gave Vélez a standing ovation at the end of her testimony.

“Us three are a Puerto Rican family, one among many,” Vélez said as Acosta and their 12-year-old daughter, Juliana María Acosta Vélez Vega, sat next to her. “We are here, not for the sake of receiving special treatment, nor to seek a privilege, but to present ourselves as citizens and daughters of this country and to ask for that which is granted to Puerto Rican families and children, the right to a family and the protections that that includes.”

Representatives of the Psychological Association of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Mental Health and Addiction Administration and the Puerto Rico Department of Justice are among those who also support of SB 437. The Archdiocese of San Juan and other groups remain opposed to the measure.

Carmen Milagros Vélez Vega, right, her partner, Ángeles Acosta Rodríguez and their daughter, Juliana María Acosta Vélez Vega testify in support of a Puerto Rican adoption bill on May 17. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Carmen Milagros Vélez Vega, right, her partner, Ángeles Acosta Rodríguez and their daughter, Juliana María Acosta Vélez Vega testify in support of a Puerto Rican adoption bill on May 17. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The SB 437 hearing took place a day after the Puerto Rican Senate approved a sweeping bill that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and government services.

Gov. Alejandro García Padilla supports both SB 437 and the non-discrimination measure that Sen. Ramón Nieves Pérez of San Juan introduced in January.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on Monday signed two executive orders that ban anti-LGBT discrimination against the Puerto Rican capital’s municipal employees and mandate the city’s police department to equally enforce the island’s domestic laws regardless of the alleged victim’s sexual orientation.

17
May
2013

Thousands attend Puerto Rico LGBT rights march

San Juan, Puerto Rico, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, gay news, Washington Blade

Marchers carry a Pride flag and crosses with “they discriminate” written on them through Old San Juan on May 17. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Thousands marched through the streets of the Puerto Rican capital on Friday in support of LGBT rights.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and Sen. Ramón Nieves Pérez, who sponsored the sweeping anti-LGBT non-discrimination bill the Senate on Thursday passed by a 15-11 vote margin, unfurled an LGBT Pride flag from the balcony of City Hall as marchers passed. She stood with members of Butterflies Trans Association, a trans advocacy group, while wearing a white hand band with the word “equity” on it as she spoke from the steps of the Puerto Rican capitol at the end of the march.

“I say from the bottom of my heart to those who are listening to us — all of Puerto Rico; we are all equal,” Yulín said.

Alicia Burgos, the mother of Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and his father spoke to marchers from the back of a pick-up truck that stopped near Plaza de Colón in Old San Juan.

“We are marching against homophobia,” she said.

The march, which was one of dozens around the world that commemorated the annual International Day Against Homophobia, took place hours after a Puerto Rican Senate committee held a hearing on a bill that would extend second parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians.

The Puerto Rico Supreme Court in February narrowly upheld the island’s ban on gay second parent adoptions in response to the case of Dr. Ángeles Acosta Rodríguez who sought to adopt the child her partner of 25 years, Dr. Carmen Milagros Vélez Vega, conceived through in vitro fertilization. Vélez received a standing ovation from the adoption measure’s supporters who attended the hearing after she finished her testimony with her partner and their 12-year-old daughter by her side.

A third bill that three representatives introduced earlier this year would add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the island’s anti-domestic violence laws.

Advocates continue to point to the three aforementioned bills as significant movement in support of rights for LGBT Puerto Ricans since Gov. Alejandro García Padilla and Yulín, who issued two LGBT-specific executive orders on Monday, took their respective offices in January. In spite of this progress, they maintain anti-LGBT discrimination and violence remain rampant throughout the island.

Yulín and others who spoke during the march referenced Jorge Steven López Mercado; a gay teenager whose decapitated, dismembered and partially burned body was found dumped along a remote roadside near Cayey in 2009. One march participant even pretended he was dead on the sidewalk in front of the Puerto Rican Capitol as others outlined his body with masking tape and placed evidence markers above rocks with anti-gay slurs written onto them.

San Juan, Puerto Rico, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, gay news, Washington Blade

A group from the Puerto Rican city of Ponce takes part in a march for LGBT rights in San Juan on May 17. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

“I, as the mother of a gay individual, say I am proud to be here,” one member of the Butterflies Trans Association said as she spoke to the crowd from the steps of the Puerto Rican Capitol. “We are fighting as a movement to tell (lawmakers) that we are in search of a place where [LGBT Puerto Ricans] can be successful, a place where we can take care of our people.”

Eduardo, who traveled to San Juan from Ponce with a group of 150 people, agreed as he spoke to the Blade near Plaza de Colón.

“We are here because we want equality,” he said. “We want the same equality that everybody else has.”

18
May
2013

Puerto Rico House approves non-discrimination bill

Hector Maldonado, Puerto Rico, San Juan, gay news, Washington Blade

Bayamon, Puerto Rico, resident Hector Maldonado stands outside the island’s capital on May 16 before the Senate approved a non-discrimination bill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Puerto Rico House of Representatives on Friday approved two bills that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in the U.S. territory and add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the island’s domestic violence laws.

The voice votes on the two measures that each passed by a 29-22 vote margin took place at the end of a nearly three hour debate. Lawmakers had been scheduled to consider the bills on Thursday, but they adjourned after a marathon session that ended well after midnight.

The Puerto Rico Senate on May 16 approved the non-discrimination measure by a 15-11 vote margin.

“I can serve God without having to discriminate against anyone,” Rep. Lydia Méndez Silva of Sabana Grande said before she announced her support of the anti-discrimination bil.

Rep. Waldemar Quiles Rodríguez of Lares described the proposal to ban anti-LGBT discrimination as “bad, twisted and perverse.” Other opponents of the measures earlier on Friday launched an online campaign that urged lawmakers to vote against it and the domestic violence measure.

“We have expressed our disagreement with SB 238 (the anti-discrimination bill) and HB 488 (domestic violence measure,)” they said in a tweeted image that also contained Proverbs 24:12. “We have given just and solid reasons. We once again remind all lawmakers that God always has the final say.

Gov. Alejandro García Padilla met with lawmakers earlier on Thursday to secure additional support for the anti-discrimination bill that Sen. Ramón Nieves Pérez of San Juan introduced in January. The governor also supports the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the island’s domestic violence laws and the extension of second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians in Puerto Rico.

Gay Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin on Wednesday also urged lawmakers to support the anti-discrimination measure.

“The rights of gay people are human rights, and human rights are for everyone,”he wrote in an open letter to members of the Puerto Rico House. “The passage of [SB 238] would represent the respect of our brothers and sisters’ rights.”

García has said he will sign the anti-discrimination bill into law. The domestic violence measure will now go before the Senate.

“Today is a thrilling day in Puerto Rican history,” Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said after the vote. “A decade ago, LGBT Puerto Ricans were criminals under the sodomy law, today we’re second-class citizens and when this bill is signed into law, we will be closer to achieving the first-class citizenship that we deserve. Equality is inevitable. Puerto Rico will be for all.”

24
May
2013

Puerto Rico governor signs LGBT bills into law

Alejandro García Padilla, Puerto Rico, Washington Blade, gay news

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla (Public domain photo by the U.S. Department of Labor)

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla on Wednesday signed two bills into law that ban anti-LGBT discrimination on the island and add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the U.S. commonwealth’s domestic violence laws.

“The dignity of being a human being is inviolable because we are all the same and we must be equal under the law,” the governor said in a tweet before he signed the measures at his official residence in San Juan. “Today is a great day for Puerto Rico. I feel that I have fulfilled my duty as a Christian to sign these laws.”

The Puerto Rico Senate on Monday approved an amended version of the non-discrimination bill that passed by a 29-22 vote margin in the island’s House of Representatives on Friday. Lawmakers on the same day also approved the domestic violence measure.

The Puerto Rico Senate first approved the non-discrimination bill on May 16 by a 15-11 vote margin.

“It’s a new day in Puerto Rico,” Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force told the Washington Blade before García signed the measures into law. “After years of struggle, we are on the brink of equality. Puerto Rico will be a place for all.”

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and singer Ricky Martin are among those who have also applauded the passage of the two bills.

A number of prominent Puerto Rican religious leaders criticized lawmakers who supported the measures.

29
May
2013

Man pleads guilty to threatening activist

Pedro Julio Serrano, NGLTF, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Puerto Rico, San Juan, LGBT equality, adoption, gay news, Washington Blade

A man whom federal authorities accused of threatening to kill Puerto Rican LGBT rights advocate, Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, pleaded guilty to the charges. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A man whom federal authorities accused of threatening to kill Puerto Rican LGBT rights advocate Pedro Julio Serrano pleaded guilty to the charges on July 15.

The newspaper El Nuevo Día reported that Joseph Joel Morales Serrano, 26, pleaded guilty to cyber-bullying and transmitting a message through means of interstate or foreign commerce. He told U.S. District Court Judge José A. Fusté he sent Serrano a tweet on May 6 urging him to “be careful” while attending an LGBT rights march in San Juan that commemorated the annual International Day Against Homophobia or he would “end up like” those who were wounded or killed during the Boston Marathon bombing in April.

Fusté sentenced Morales to time served and three years of supervised release. The judge also ordered him to close his Twitter account for three years.

The newspaper reported Serrano and Morales hugged each other at the end of the hearing.

17
Jul
2013

Gay Puerto Rican boxer marries boyfriend

Orlando Cruz, Jose Manuel, Puerto Rico, New York City, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz (second from left) married José Manuel Colón , in New York’s Central Park on Nov. 16, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Pedro Julio Serrano)

Gay Puerto Rican boxer Orlando “El Fenómeno” Cruz on Nov. 16 married his boyfriend, José Manuel Colón, in New York’s Central Park.

New York City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is among the frontrunners to succeed outgoing New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the position, officiated the ceremony. Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Shirley Casiano were witnesses.

“Giving thanks to my heavenly father for one more day of life and with [my] husband José Manuel in it,” Cruz wrote in Spanish on his Facebook page on Sunday.

Cruz in Oct. 2012 became the first active professional boxer to come out as gay.

He wore trunks with a Puerto Rican flag in rainbow colors during his match against Mexican boxer Orlando Salido in Las Vegas last month for the WBO featherweight championship. Salido knocked Cruz out in the seventh round.

The National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in August included Cruz among its first class of inductees.

18
Nov
2013

Puerto Rico Senate approves non-discrimination bill

Hector Maldonado, Puerto Rico, San Juan, gay news, Washington Blade

Bayamon, Puerto Rico, resident Hector Maldonado stands outside the island’s capital on Thursday, May 16. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—The Puerto Rican Senate on Thursday approved a sweeping bill that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and government services in the U.S. territory.

The 15-11 vote took place after lawmakers for several hours debated Senate Bill 238 that Sen. Ramón Nieves Pérez introduced in January.

“The country, you and I are sick and tired of the marginalization,” Sen. Mari Tere González said.

Former Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz is among those who spoke against the bill.

“This Senate speaks of tolerance but discriminates against those who don’t have the same political ideology,” he tweeted during the debate.

The bill’s passage comes three days after San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz mandated the Puerto Rican capital’s police department to equally apply the island’s current domestic violence laws, regardless of the reported victim’s sexual orientation. She also signed a second executive order that bans discrimination against the city’s municipal employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, lesbian New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and others repeatedly criticized former Gov. Luís Fortuño for not doing enough to curb rampant anti-LGBT violence on the island following the 2009 murder of gay teenager Jorge Steven López Mercado.

Current Gov. Alejandro García Padilla in February told a local newspaper he opposes the Puerto Rico Supreme Court decision that narrowly upheld the island’s gay adoption ban. He also supports both SB 238 and a separate measure on which a Senate committee will hold a hearing on Friday that would extend adoption rights to gays and lesbians.

Thousands of people on the same day are expected to take part in a march in the Puerto Rican capital that will commemorate the annual International Day Against Homophobia.

Dozens of LGBT rights advocates and other supporters cheered Serrano as he walked out of the Puerto Rican Capitol after the SB 238 vote.

“We are celebrating this victory,” he told the Blade while noting Schatz has previously referred to him as a “faggot.” “The people are celebrating with us. It is an extraordinary step forward.”

Bayamón resident Héctor Maldonado and a handful of other SB 238 supporters who stood across the street from the Capitol during the debate waved rainbow flags and held signs that urged passing motorists to honk their horns in support of the measure. One man yelled “maricón” or “faggot” at them as he drove past, but several drivers indicated their support of the bill.

“It’s just about basic human rights,” Maldonado told the Blade.

SB 238 will now go to the Puerto Rico House of Representatives.

16
May
2013

Puerto Rico police agree to strengthen hate crime response

Gay News, Washington Blade, Puerto Rico, Hate Crimes

Pedro Julio Serrano (Photo courtesy of Pedro Julio Serrano)

The Puerto Rico Police Department agreed to strengthen its response to hate crimes in a settlement the Justice Department announced on Dec. 21.

DOJ ordered the PRPD to “collect accurate and reliable data hate crimes” on “an ongoing basis” and submit it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for inclusion in its annual Hate Crimes Statistics report. (The FBI currently reports statistics based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity and expression. It will begin to collect transgender-specific data this year as outlined in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act that President Obama signed in 2009. The agency will begin to report them in 2014.)

The department agreed to develop policies that will improve the way its officers interact with transgender people while in custody. The PRPD will also provide officers with bias-free police trainings at least every two years and annually after 2017. Components of these sessions will include “the protection of civil rights as a central part of the police mission” and “arbitrary classifications and stereotyping” based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and other factors.

“These provisions are designed to promote police services that are equitable, respectful, and free of unlawful bias in a manner that supports broad community engagement and effective crime prevention,” the agreement reads. “These provisions will enable PRPD to provide members of the public with equal protection of the law, without bias based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

“We appreciate the hard work of [then-Gov. Luís] Fortuño, [PRPD] Superintendent Hector Pesquera and their staff,” Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the DOJ Civil Rights Division, said in a press release that announced the agreement. “Together, and with great input from the public, we have designed a comprehensive blueprint for reform that provides a solid foundation that will professionalize and support the hardworking men and women of PRPD as they protect the people of Puerto Rico.”

The DOJ’s announcement comes after its damning Sept. 2011 report that listed an inadequate response to hate crimes as among the PRPD’s numerous deficiencies.

More than 30 LGBT Puerto Ricans have been killed since gay teenager Jorge Steven López Mercado’s decapitated, dismembered and partially burned body was found alongside a remote roadside in Nov. 2009.

A judge sentenced Juan José Martínez Matos to 99-years in prison after he pledged guilty to the crime, but the Puerto Rico Department of Justice’s own reports indicate Puerto Rican prosecutors have yet to convict anyone under the island’s hate crimes law that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The Puerto Rico Senate in late 2011 approved a proposal that would have eliminated LGBT-specific protections from the aforementioned statute.

Pedro Julio Serrano and other Puerto Rican LGBT advocates repeatedly criticized Fortuño and his administration for what they contend was an unwillingness to speak out against anti-LGBT violence in the American commonwealth in the wake of López’s brutal death that sent shockwaves across the island and around the world.

“It’s definitely too little too late for the outgoing administration,” Serrano told the Washington Blade in response to the DOJ agreement. “But it’s a good blueprint and protocol that is necessary to finally have this in place for the prosecutors in Puerto Rico so they can work on the hate crimes on the island and make sure they are correctly prosecuted and investigated as hate crimes because it hasn’t happened in Puerto Rico.”

The DOJ also met with Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, who succeeded Fortuño on Wednesday, to discuss the agreement.

“We look forward to working with Governor-elect García Padilla and his incoming administration to finalize the agreement and begin the critical work of rebuilding PRPD,” Perez said before the current governor took office. “Ensuring effective, constitutional policing is not a partisan issue, and we appreciate the commitment of Gov. Fortuño and Governor-elect García Padilla to the reforms embodied in the agreement. The successful implementation of the reforms contained in this agreement will help to reduce crime, ensure respect for the Constitution and restore public confidence in PRPD.”

García pledged during his campaign he would support a number of LGBT-specific proposals that include the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the island’s anti-employment discrimination law, civil unions for same-sex couples and including LGBT Puerto Ricans in the island’s domestic violence statutes. Serrano urged the incoming administration to amend the hate crimes law to allow prosecutors to introduce bias-related evidence at the start of a trial as opposed to during the sentencing phase.

“We want it from the get go to be prosecuted as a hate crime so the evidence and a way the case is prosecuted is a following the motivation of the crime and it’s not left to the end of the process where usually after they get a conviction or someone pleads guilty then they don’t have to deal the motivation because they already got what they wanted,” he said, adding he feels both the PRPD and the Puerto Rico Justice Department do not understand how to address hate crimes. “The only way to curb anti-LGBT violence in Puerto Rico is we finally prosecute these as hate crimes and people understand the motivation behind them was anti-LGBT.”

The DOJ agreement will take effect on April 15.

03
Jan
2013