Elected officials from New York City and Chicago are meeting today in Puerto Rico with elected officials, with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists, as well as with political, religious and civic leaders from the island to stand in solidarity with the Puerto Rican people in urging an end to prejudice, discrimination and hate crimes; as well as to advocate for full LGBT equality. During the trip, the officials will also meet with the family of Jorge Steven López Mercado, a 19-year-old gay teen who was brutally murdered in a homophobic hate crime on Nov. 13, 2009.
The elected officials are being accompanied by community leaders from New York and Chicago, and they are urging the Puerto Rican government to end the prejudice, discrimination and inequities faced by the LGBT communities. They also urge the Legislature and Gov. Fortuño to cease and desist their efforts not to recognize their rights.
They also call upon the members of the Puerto Rican Legislature to cease and desist of using homophobic expressions, because they were elected to guarantee equality for all Puerto Ricans. They also urge the Legislature and the governor of Puerto Rico to promote and approve laws that recognize and grant equal rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. At the same, they urge the authorities to process as hate crimes all hate violence motivated by prejudice against the sexual orientation or gender identity of the victims.
“We stand in solidarity and support with the LGBT communities in Puerto Rico and the López Mercado family,” says Illinois State Senator Iris Martínez. “This is an important struggle that should matter to all of us and we will continue to fight together until we bring justice, equal rights and full recognition for the LGBT communities.”
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is leading the New York delegation, alongside NYC Councilmembers Melissa Mark-Viverito, Rosie Mendez, Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer. Illinois State Senator Iris Martinez is leading the Chicago delegation, alongside Illinois State Representative Maria “Toni” Berrios. On this historic trip, both delegations are accompanied by leaders of LGBT organizations, HIV/AIDS prevention organizations and activists.
The delegations are being hosted by Pedro Julio Serrano, communications manager for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, who is participating in the Puerto Rican and the NYC delegations. He is joined by Ada Conde, president of the Human Rights Foundation and of the Commission Against Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity of the Puerto Rico Bar Association.
“This is a historic trip, in which the solidarity from our brothers and sisters from New York City and Chicago will send a powerful message of love that conquers hate,” says Pedro Julio Serrano. “This will highlight the fact that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in Puerto Rico are not alone. We count with the support of elected officials and communities that stand with us on this fight not only to end hate violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but to achieve full equality under the law.”
On the other hand, Ada Conde expressed that “it is time that the Puerto Rican government learns that our LGBT community is not alone. This is a struggle of human rights and dignity. Enough of this discrimination and hate rethoric.”
The organizations accompanying this delegation are the Puerto Rican Cultural Center – Vida/Sida, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the Latino Commission on AIDS, Boricua PRIDE, Association of Latin Men for Action (ALMA), the Institute of Puerto Rican Art & Culture-IPRAC, Orgullo en Acción, ASPIRA Inc. of Illinois, and UNID@S, the National Latino/a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Human Rights Organization.