Thousands of people attended a vigil in New York last night for Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, the gay Puerto Rico teenager who was murdered earlier this month.

The gathering in New York was held at Pier 46 on the edge of the city’s West Village.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an out lesbian, said: “The attack against any American because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is unacceptable, and will be prosecuted to the highest and fullest extent of the law.”

A number of other vigils have been held in cities around the US.

Lopez Mercado, a fashion student, was found burnt and dismembered on Friday 20th November on a road in Cayey.

A suspect, Juan A Martinez Matos, 26, allegedly murdered the 19-year-old after finding out he was a man when he picked him up in a red light district.

It has been reported that he will use the ‘gay panic’ defence and claim that he reacted violently when Lopez made sexual advances towards him.

Gay rights groups are calling for him to prosecuted under new laws on homophobic hatred.

Matos could be one of the first to be tried under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which offers federal protection against hate crimes motivated by homophobia and transphobia.

The law was signed by President Barack Obama last month.