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Puerto Rico to have new hate crime laws to protect gays

Outgoing Secretary of Justice promises new rules and new Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla pledges to tackle anti-gay violence
The new Governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, has promised to tackle anti-LGBT violence.

Puerto Rico’s LGBT community may be a step closer to being protected from killings, assaults and other hate crimes.

The departing Secretary of Justice, Guillermo Somoza has said new rules would be put in place for hate crimes and said these result from meetings with LGBT groups in recent years.

At least 18 members of the gay, bi and trans community were murdered in 2010 and 2011 alone on the archipelago that is a territory but not a state of the US.

The new rules proposed by Somoza will define what counts as a hate crime and tell investigators how to identify evidence.

But Pedro Julio Serrano, from the US-based National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said outgoing Governor Luis Fortuño should have acted before and this was ‘too little, too late’.

‘We’ve been trying to get this protocol in place for over three years and finally, in the last month of their tenure, they finally unveil it,’ Serrano said.

But the greater hope of change stem not from the last-minute actions of the departing Fortuño administration but from his successor.

Governor-elect Alejandro Garcia Padilla beat Fortuño in the elections in November and has pleged to combat anti-LGBT violence in his coming term.

He will be sworn in on 2 January.

Speaking before the election Padilla promised the LGBT community to fight injustices. And he even paraphrased Harvey Milk, the first openly gay official in the US – whose life and death were made into the biopic Milk.

Speaking in Spanish he said: ‘My name is Alejandro Garcia Padilla. And I'm here to recruit you.’

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