Two important election updates from Puerto Rico. A "slim majority of Puerto Ricans have voted to approve a nonbinding referendum" that would make the commonwealth the 51st U.S. state. And here is some music to your ears: Voters also ousted the anti-gay and pro-statehood Gov. Luis Fortuño.
[The] two-part ballot first asked all voters if they favor the current status as a U.S. territory. Regardless of the answer, all voters then had the opportunity to choose in the second question from three options: statehood, independence or "sovereign free association," which would grant more autonomy to the island of nearly 4 million people. More than 900,000 voters, or 54 percent, responded "no" to the first question, saying they were not content with the current status.
On the second question, only about 1.3 million voters made a choice. Of those, nearly 800,000, or 61 percent of those expressing an opinion, chose statehood — the first majority after three previous referendums on the issue over the past 45 years. Some 437,000 backed sovereign free association and 72,560 chose independence. Nearly 500,000, however, left that question blank.
Gov. Luis Fortuno, a member of the pro-statehood party who is also a Republican, [was] turned him out of office after one term, and gave the governship to Alejandro Garcia Padilla of the Popular Democratic Party, which wants Puerto Rico to remain a semi-autonomous U.S. commonwealth.
Puerto Rico has witnessed an escalating trend of anti-LGBT violence and homicides. Fortuño has resisted efforts to prosecute the cases as hate crimes, has refused to publicly speak on the violence but did call for a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage.
The rash of reported anti-LGBT crimes in Puerto Rico started in November 2008 when 19-year gay Jorge Steven López Mercado was brutally killed and dismembered near Cayey. In December 2008, another gay man was killed and the body of Ashley Santiago Ocasio, a transgender woman, was discovered in a bloody crime scene near San Juan in April 2009. There have been "dozens" of anti-LGBT murders since then.
Fortuño resisted efforts to classify the horrific murder and dismemberment of López as a hate crime. The Puerto Rico Department of Justice ultimately and reluctantly did so under the threat of federal intervention. Juan A. Martínez Matos confessed to killing López. In May 2010, the confessed killer plead guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
In June 2010, the Commonwealth's attorney general announced the creation of a special commission to investigate hate crimes. To date, Fortuño has yet to publicly comment on any of the cases.