Same-sex marriage is banned in Puerto Rico, as well as in 13 states from Arkansas to Texas (both of which are currently facing legal challenges to their bans). There are 37 states that acknowledge same-sex marriage.
Last summer a lawsuit challenged Puerto Rico’s law forbidding same-sex marriage. In October U.S. District Court Judge Juan Perez-Gimenez rejected the case. Lambda Legal, a national gay rights group, worked with five same-sex couples on the island to file an appeal of the decision in hopes of overturning the judge’s decision and making same-sex marriages legal in Puerto Rico.
This Friday is the deadline for the defendants in the case to file a reply brief in the appeal process of the federal case. The newspaper El Nuevo Día interviewed Justice Secretary César Miranda and asked whether the government is rethinking the case. The Secretary said the interviewer could say so, and some observers believe that Garcia Padilla’s government is considering revoking the ban and allowing same-sex marriages.
“We are encouraged that the government is reconsidering its defense of its discriminatory ban on the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. Government should never be in the business of discrimination,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Lambda Legal staff attorney.
“We look forward to what the government will say in its response to our appeal, which is due at the First Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, and hope Puerto Rico will join the several other state officials over the past year who have also ceased defense of marriage bans in similar cases,” he added.
“We have always maintained that the ban is unconstitutional and we are eager for a court to vindicate the rights of our plaintiff couples.”
In the initial ruling, Judge Perez-Giminez held that the community has a right to make laws on the subject which reflects the position of the community. In Puerto Rico, where many people hold socially conservative views and the Roman Catholic church is the most popular religious denomination, same-sex marriage is not a popular idea.
Lambda Legal holds that the size of the GLTB population or the strength of the community’s position against gay marriage should not be factors in the decision as to whether such marriages should be legal.
“Because no right to same-sex marriage emanates from the Constitution, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico should not be compelled to recognize such unions,” Judge Perez-Gimenez wrote. “Instead, Puerto Rico, acting through its legislature, remains free to shape its own marriage policy.”
The judge referenced a 1971 decision which emphasized states’ rights to make decisions about marriage without federal intervention.
The Puerto Rico lawsuit was one of nearly 100 such cases heard last year, in a concerted national effort to strike down as many bans on same-sex marriage as possible. Puerto Rico and Louisiana were the only state that upheld a ban, and Puerto Rico was the only territory to have such a lawsuit.