Lambda Legal Condemns Brutal Murder of Gay Puerto Rican Teen
(Los Angeles, November 18, 2009) — Lambda Legal condemns the brutal murder last week of a gay 19-year-old youth in Puerto Rico and calls for action on laws and policies that prohibit discrimination.
Jorge Steven López Mercado was decapitated, dismembered and his body partially burned near the town of Cayey, in what appears to be a hate crime. The Coordinator of Lambda Legal's Proyecto Igualdad issued the following statement:
"We offer our sincerest condolences to Jorge Steven's friends and family. His death is shocking, and we stand with them and the entire LGBT community of Puerto Rico in saying, 'No more.'
The tragic murder of a young person underscores the danger that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face every day, and the need for strong laws that protect all of us equally, without exception. When the government and the legal system make clear that each of us has a right to a life free from violence and discrimination, it strengthens society for all its members.
Puerto Rico has a hate crimes law, but as far as we know, it has never been used to prosecute any crime involving sexual orientation or gender identity. If it turns out that Jorge Steven was killed for his sexual orientation or gender identity, his suspected killer may be the first to be tried under that law. It encourages us that local authorities are investigating the murder as a possible hate crime, and that the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office in San Juan are considering applying the new Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, signed into law last month by President Obama.
This weekend the LGBT Latino communities of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and other cities will join that of San Juan in a vigil for this young man, and this Friday, November 20, we also mark the third annual international Transgender Day of Remembrance in honor of all transgender victims of violence. But vigils and remembrance must lead to action. Through Lambda Legal's Proyecto Igualdad, Transgender Rights and Youth in Out-of-Home Care projects – and all the work we do – we are making the case every day for equality, safety and dignity for all LGBT people."
Contact: Tom Warnke; 213-382-7600 ex 247;email@example.com
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.