GLAAD Calls on President Obama to Speak Out on Anti-LGBT Violence during Visit to Puerto Rico

Rich Ferraro
Director of Communications, GLAAD
(646) 871-8011
ferraro@glaad.org

Monica Trasandes,
Director of Spanish-Language Media
(323) 634-2025
trasandes@glaad.org

June 14, 2011

Los Angeles, CA, June 14, 2011 – The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, is calling on President Barack Obama to speak out against the hate-motivated killings in Puerto Rico during his Tuesday, June 14 trip to San Juan. GLAAD also launched an online action that urges media to report on the murders: http://www.glaad.org/prmedia.

Singer Ricky Martin also joined the campaign on Monday by re-tweeting a link to the online action.

In the last year and a half, at least 18 gay or transgender people in Puerto Rico have been killed, three of them just last week. Although advocates believe many of these victims' lives were taken because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, authorities have not been treating the cases as hate crimes.

"As our gay and transgender brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico are being brutally murdered, the mainstream media continues to turn a blind eye," said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. "News outlets have a responsibility to report on these vicious, hate-motivated crimes and to hold law enforcement accountable for charging suspects appropriately."

President Obama will visit Puerto Rico, where he will also deliver remarks. Barrios continued, "President Obama should take a stand while in San Juan and send a clear message that hate-motivated crimes will not be tolerated in any U.S. territory -- period."

The most recent victim, Karlota Gomez, was shot to death Tuesday by someone driving by her on the street. A suspect has been arrested.

According to published reports, on Wednesday local advocates are meeting with the Puerto Rican Attorney General, the Puerto Rico Police Chief, with Governor Luis Fortuño's security advisor and with two prosecutors, among others. 

In late April, another transgender woman, Francheska Gonzalez, was severely beaten by a man while leaving a gas station.

Late last year, two young transgender women were shot in the head and apparently run over by a car in the southern city of Juana Diaz. Also last year, the naked and battered body of a transgender woman, Ashley Santiago, was found in her home in the northern town of Corozal.

In a November 2009 case that sparked vigils in New York and Chicago, teenager Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado was found decapitated and partially burned in Cayey.

GLAAD is urging Puerto Rico's media – and all media that serves a sizable Puerto Rican audience – to report accurately on the state of fear among Puerto Rico's LGBT community. This fear affects not just gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people but also their friends and family members, both in Puerto Rico and elsewhere. It is the media's responsibility to expose the lack of adequate investigation by authorities into this wave of anti-LGBT crimes.

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of the LGBT advocacy group Puerto Rico for Everyone and communications manager for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said Thursday, "It seems they have declared open hunting season against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual people."