Tags: Puerto Rico | gay | marriage | judge

Puerto Rico Gay-Marriage Ban Upheld as Judge Bucks Trend

Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014 04:01 PM

A federal judge in Puerto Rico upheld the commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage, going against a tide of trial- and appellate-court decisions striking down such prohibitions elsewhere in the U.S.

Court rulings, legislation and popular votes have legalized gay marriage in 32 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Four federal appeals courts this year affirmed decisions authorizing same-sex unions, and this month the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the issue. Last year, the court struck down part of the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act, which had defined marriage as a heterosexual union.

U.S. District Judge Juan M. Perez-Gimenez in San Juan today cited Spanish law and a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in rejecting a lawsuit filed by two gay couples seeking the right to wed and three couples who sought local recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

He also rejected a request by lawyers for the commonwealth that he abstain from ruling on the constitutionality of Puerto Rico’s ban so that it could implement “a coherent policy on the matter,” deeming that step unnecessary.

“The commonwealth’s marriage policy is neither unclear nor unsettled,” the judge said. He traced its lineage to an 1889 royal decree placing the island under Spain’s civil code, which included a marriage provision setting forth “rights and obligations of husband and wife.”

Joining Case

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, an attorney for the gay-rights organization Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which joined in the case after it was filed, said the decision will be appealed to the Boston-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Same-sex marriage is legal in the rest of the circuit, which covers Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, as well as Puerto Rico.

“We’re disappointed in the ruling, but not discouraged,” he said in a telephone interview.

The U.S. gained Puerto Rico in the 1898 Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War. It won commonwealth status in 1950 under legislation signed by President Harry S. Truman.

Perez-Gimenez said the U.S. government “recognizes Puerto Rico’s legal heritage,” from which the opposite-sex aspect of marriage was carried forward.

The judge also said the Supreme Court’s 1972 decision to summarily dismiss the appeal of a ruling upholding a Minnesota gay-marriage ban is still good law as it’s not been expressly overruled. Same-sex marriage is now legal in Minnesota.

Polygamy Laws

He faulted courts that have struck down gay-marriage bans for failing to address laws barring polygamy and the ability of fathers to wed their daughters.

“Of course, it’s all too easy to dismiss such concerns as absurd,” the judge said. “But the truth concealed in these concerns goes to the heart of our system of limited, consent-based government: those seeking sweeping change must render reasons justifying the change and articulate the principles that they claim will limit this newly fashioned right.”

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A federal judge in Puerto Rico upheld the commonwealth's ban on same-sex marriage, going against a tide of trial- and appellate-court decisions striking down such prohibitions elsewhere in the U.S.Court rulings, legislation and popular votes have legalized gay marriage in...
Puerto Rico, gay, marriage, judge
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2014-01-22
Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014 04:01 PM
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