Puerto Rico’s Conservative Senate President Thomas Rivera-Schatz is being accused of homophobia by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, after he worked with Gov. Luis Fortuño to convene an extraordinary legislative session to vote on excluding LGBT people and Dominican workers from the commonwealth’s hate crimes statute, according to EDGE Media Network.
The statute, enacted in 2004, increases the punishment on bias crimes committed against people based on political affiliation, age and disability, however lawmakers last month approved a provision eliminating from the law sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ethnicity and religious beliefs.
“Basically they took out the communities hardest hit by hate crimes in Puerto Rico out of the hate crimes statute,” the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Pedro Julio Serrano told EDGE Media Network. “It’s an outrage and now we’re calling upon the House to restore this to where it should be.”
Since 2009 the island has been hit with an epidemic of anti-LGBT murders, according to EDGE Media Network. Serrano cited nearly two dozen unsolved murder cases, and Puerto Rico prosecutors have yet to get a single bias-crime conviction.
A federal DOJ spokesperson declined to comment to EDGE on the proposed elimination.
Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) called the situation in Puerto Rico “a civil and human rights crisis,” and blasted the government.
“To say this is appalling is an understatement,” Gutierrez said in a statement. “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.”
“The attacks by the current government of Puerto Rico against the rights of its own people appear to be limitless, both in scope and audacity,” Gutierrez continued.