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Human Rights Campaign Condemns Brutal Slaying of Gay Teen in Puerto Rico

(WASHINGTON D.C.)–The Human Rights Campaign is condemning the brutal murder of Jorge Steven López, 19, in Cayey, Puerto Rico. López’s body was discovered on an isolated road, dismembered and burned, last Friday.

Late Monday night, police arrested Juan A. Martinez in connection with the crime. Puerto Rican media outlets report Martinez confessed to killing López after discovering his female gender presentation did not match his male sex, and that Martínez plans to use a "gay panic/trans panic" defense in court.

First coined by psychiatrist Edward J. Kempf in 1920, “gay panic” describing an acute, brief reactive psychosis involving delusions and hallucinations accusing a person of various homosexual activities. In the gay panic defense, the defendant claims that he or she has been the object of romantic or sexual advances by the victim. The defendant finds the advances so offensive and frightening that it brings on a psychotic state characterized by unusual violence. Trans panic is a similar defense applied towards cases where the victim is a transgender or intersex person.

“We are all grieving the loss of Jorge López,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Juan Martinez apparently believes Jorge’s sexual orientation and gender expression justify this horrific crime. It’s clear, however, that prejudice and hate are the true motivations. HRC stands in solidarity with Jorge López’s family and friends, our sister advocacy organizations, and the LGBT community in Puerto Rico and throughout America in calling for a full and thorough investigation of his murder as a hate crime under appropriate Commonwealth and Federal hate crimes laws.”

Puerto Rico added sexual orientation to its hate crimes law in 2002. Additionally, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by President Obama last month, added sexual orientation and gender identity to existing federal statutes and could be invoked to provide local authorities with additional resources to investigate and prosecute the case. HRC has been in contact with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division since news of López’s murder became public.

"I strongly condemn this horrible crime and urge that it be treated as the heinous hate-crime that it is," New York Congressman José Serrano said in a statement his office released on Nov. 17. "Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act to address just this type of offense. I urge the federal government to provide Puerto Rican authorities with assistance in this investigation. The parties responsible must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of either Puerto Rican law or our new federal hate crimes law."

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