Gay Marriage Controversy in Puerto Rico Rattles New York

LGBT groups will fight the judge's decision in Puerto Rico in the coming days. (Photo via El Diario)

LGBT groups will fight a federal judge’s decision on gay marriage in Puerto Rico. (Photo via El Diario)

The controversy sparked in Puerto Rico after a federal judge refused to green-light gay marriage is rippling through New York as several local politicians react to the decision.

On the island, attorney Omar González Pagán, representing the five couples who filed a lawsuit questioning the prohibition of same-sex marriage, said on Wednesday that he will appeal the judge’s decision. The couples had contested the constitutionality of a number of local laws including a code dating back to 1902 in which marriage was defined as the union exclusively between a woman and a man. On Tuesday, District Court judge Juan Pérez Giménez dismissed the lawsuit stating that the debate about the possibility of allowing same-sex marriage should be held between the people and legislators, not in court.

“Because there is no constitutional right to allow marriage between people of the same sex, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico cannot be forced to recognize these unions,” wrote the judge, adding that “Puerto Rico’s legislature is free to create its own policies about marriage.”

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said via press release that, as a Puerto Rican, she knows that the people on the island are compassionate, inclusive and respectful of difference, and regretted the judge’s decision.

The road to equality is never easy, but as we have seen in New York and in states across the nation, it is a battle we must continue to fight and a battle we will ultimately win,” Mark-Viverito said.

Attorney González Pagán, who works with the New York-based gay rights organization Lambda Legal, said that “the decision came as a surprise,” and that he would file an appeal in the next few days. Of the five couples that the organization represents, three got married in other states and two hope to be able to do it in Puerto Rico.

Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., of Puerto Rican descent, criticized the decision and called it “incredibly unfortunate.” He also said that people who love each other, regardless of their sexual orientation, should not be deprived of the benefits of marriage. “The LGBT community in Puerto Rico deserves equal rights, including the right to marry.”

More than 30 states in the U.S. have recognized the legal union between people of the same sex, many of them after the Supreme Court decided on Oct. 6 to stop hearing appeals from states who seek to defend a ban on gay marriage.

“Puerto Rico is the only jurisdiction in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit still forbidding same-sex marriage,” said González-Pagán.

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