November 5, 2020 at 12:52 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Out candidates elected in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade
(Image by Nicolas Raymond; courtesy Flickr)

Several out candidates in Puerto Rico won their races on Tuesday.

Ana Irma Rivera Lassen, a lesbian woman of African descent, was elected to the Puerto Rico Senate. Rivera won her race less than five months after Antulio “Kobbo” Santarrosa, host of “La Comay,” a Puerto Rican gossip show hosted by a life-sized puppet with the same name, mocked her.

Jorge Báez Pagán, a member of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, won his race for an at-large seat in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives. He defeated María Milagros “Tata” Charbonier, an anti-LGBTQ representative who has been indicted on federal corruption charges, in his August primary.

Voters in Isabela, a municipality on Puerto Rico’s northwest coast, elected Miguel “Ricky” Méndez, a gay man who is a member of the Popular Democratic Party, which supports the island’s status as a U.S. commonwealth, as the next mayor. Edgardo Cruz Vélez, a retired soldier who is also openly gay, won his write-in campaign for mayor of Guánica, a municipality on Puerto Rico’s southwest coast.

Alberto Giménez, who is gay, won his race for the San Juan Municipal Council.

Tuesday’s election took place against the backdrop of continued violence and discrimination against LGBTQ Puerto Ricans.

Six transgender people have been murdered on the island since the beginning of the year.

Puerto Rico’s hate crimes law includes both sexual orientation and gender identity, but local prosecutors rarely apply it. Activists have sharply criticized outgoing Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced and other New Progressive Party lawmakers over their response to the murders, anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and general violence towards LGBTQ Puerto Ricans.

The Puerto Rican government last month announced the island’s Medicaid program now covers transition-related health care.

Puerto Rican voters on Tuesday also narrowly approved a non-binding statehood referendum.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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