In a decision that willfully ignored the prevailing wisdom of most of the federal judiciary, a judge in Puerto Rico recently tossed a lawsuit challenging the island's ban on gays marrying. The judge did not expressly uphold the constitutionality of the ban; rather, he granted PR's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Either way, the case is headed for appeal at the First Circuit Court of Appeals. This case adds a little texture to the Supreme Court's refusal to take seven marriage equality cases, bringing an end to marriage discrimination in much of the country. But do not expect Puerto Rico to derail our forward march.
Puerto Rico is not just an LGBT-friendly locale in the Caribbean; it's also a territory of the United States under the jurisdiction of the First Circuit. That court also includes Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island and, as such, it has not had the opportunity to weigh in on the constitutionality of a state ban on same-sex marriage since Windsor because, like the Second and Third Circuits, all its states are marriage equality states. That is, except for Puerto Rico.
Into this mix walked several Puerto Rican same-sex couples, represented by Lambda Legal, who want to get married and who have been watching from the sidelines as bans topple like dominoes in the states. After they filed their lawsuit, the state's response was to ask the judge to dismiss the lawsuit for, among other things, lack of jurisdiction.
A motion to dismiss is not unusual. In fact, motions to dismiss or motions for summary judgment are two tools used often to decide cases without having to go through the complexities, expense, and uncertainties of a trial. Even this particular argument wasn't rare. But although the motion may not have been unusual, the judge's decision was, at least in a post-Windsor world.
I summarize the court's ruling and explain why the judge was utterly and completely wrong, AFTER THE JUMP...