Puerto Rico Hub




Lambda Legal Brings Challenge to Puerto Rico's Same-Sex Marriage Ban To First Circuit Court of Appeals

6a00d8341c730253ef01b7c6f833ff970b-800wiAs promised, Lambda Legal has filed an appeal of Federal Judge Perez-Gimenez’s ruling that upheld Puerto Rico’s ban on same-sex marriage. The case will now be heard by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. The Washington Blade reports:

“Puerto Rico has many loving, committed couples who need the dignity and respect of marriage as soon as possible, and we won’t stop fighting on their behalf,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan of Lambda Legal. Ada Conde Vidal and Ivonne Álvarez Vélez of San Juan filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in March. Four additional gay and lesbian couples along with Lambda Legal and Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, joined the case three months later. 

Puerto Rico's ban on same-sex marriage was enacted in 1999 after lawmakers amended the U.S. commonwealth’s civil code to ban recognition of same-sex marriages. The decision out of Puerto Rico contradicts the larger trend we have been witnessing whereby federal and appellate court judges have been striking down bans on same-sex marriage:

“The district’s court ruling is not only out of step with the rest of the country, it leaves Puerto Rico as the only jurisdiction within the First Circuit to ban marriage for same-sex couples,” said Gonzalez-Pagan. “During the past year reasoned rulings by district courts throughout the nation and the Courts of Appeals for the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Circuits, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court’s actions to let stand some of those rulings, clearly demonstrate that marriage bans, such as Puerto Rico’s, are unconstitutional.” 

Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, who is among the defendants in the case, publicly supports civil unions for gays and lesbians. He reiterated his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples last week after Pérez-Giménez announced his ruling. “The government should not be in the business of discriminating against its people,” said Gonzalez-Pagan. “It is disappointing that Puerto Rico continues to perpetuate the harms it causes to loving, committed Puerto Rican same-sex couples.”

Now that the issue of same-sex marriage in Puerto Rico is headed to the 1st Circuit, SCOTUS Blog considers the impact its decision will have on the larger issue of same-sex marriage in the United States:

6a00d8341c730253ef01b8d08243b2970c-800wiTwo years ago, the First Circuit said flatly that it was still required to follow the Supreme Court’s summary, one-sentence ruling in 1972, in the case of Baker v. Nelson.  That ruling, it said, is “binding precedent” which bars an argument that there is “a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”  And, it noted, the Supreme Court has not overturned that ruling in more recent gay rights decisions.  The Baker decision said without elaboration that a plea for a right to marry a same-sex partner did not raise “a substantial federal question.”

The question now is whether the First Circuit will continue to adhere to that view, in the face of a broad wave of federal court decisions indicating that Baker v. Nelson no longer remained an obstacle to striking down state laws against same-sex marriage.   If the First Circuit holds fast, it could set up a split on this issue that could lead the Supreme Court to step into the same-sex marriage controversy in a way that it has so far avoided.

In his ruling on October 21 rejecting the couples’ challenge to Puerto Rico’s ban, U.S. District Judge Juan M. Perez-Gimenez said that he had no choice because of the 1972 precedent and because of the First Circuit’s comments about Baker v. Nelson‘s continued validity.  The Baker decision, he said, is still controlling, “even when other cases would seem to undermine the Supreme Court’s holdings….The Supreme Court is perfectly capable of stating its intention to overrule a prior case.”


Lambda Legal to Appeal 'Aberrant' Federal Court Ruling Dismissing Puerto Rico Marriage Lawsuit

Lambda Legal says it will appeal yesterday's ruling from the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico dismissing a lawsuit challenging the territory's ban on same-sex marriage.

PuertoricoVia press release:

“The court’s ruling directly conflicts with the wave of recent decisions finding these marriage bans unconstitutional and perpetuates the discrimination and harm done to same-sex Puerto Rican couples and their families,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. “It defies the unmistakable import of the Windsor decision and flies in the face of the blizzard of rulings of the last year, the reasoned rulings of the Courts of Appeals for the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Circuits, and the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to let stand the rulings striking down five bans similar to Puerto Rico’s. One struggles to understand how this judge came to a different conclusion.”

“We will, of course, appeal this ruling to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals,” Gonzalez-Pagan said. “All families in Puerto Rico need the protections of marriage.”

On March 25th, 2014, Ada Mercedes Conde Vidal and Ivonne Álvarez Vélez filed a lawsuit to compel Puerto Rico to recognize their marriage, which they entered into in Massachusetts. In June, Lambda Legal joined and amended that lawsuit to include four more plaintiff couples, two seeking recognition of marriages entered into in other jurisdictions and two who seek to marry in Puerto Rico, as well as an organizational plaintiff, Puerto Rico Para Tod@s.

"It is outrageous that loving committed LGBT couples and their families have been deprived of their civil rights and dignity,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder and president of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s. “We are hopeful that justice will prevail and that the equality promised by the Constitution will be upheld."

Other states in the 1st Circuit include Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, all of which have marriage equality.


Judge Upholds Puerto Rico's Ban On Same-Sex Marriage: READ


Juan_Manuel_Perez_GimenezU.S. District Judge Perez Gimenez has issued a ruling upholding Puerto Rico's ban on same-sex marriage. Equality on Trial reports:

Citing Baker v. Nelson and the First Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) a judge in Puerto Rico has dismissed a challenge to its same-sex marriage ban.

In that DOMA case, Massachusetts v. HHS, the First Circuit had said that Baker v. Nelson is binding precedent on the issue of whether there’s a right to same-sex marriage; they then found that Baker didn’t prevent them from ruling on DOMA, which didn’t involve the states’ regulation of marriage.

The Puerto Rico case can be appealed to the First Circuit, which hasn’t had an opportunity to review challenges to same-sex marriage bans since all the states in that circuit allow same-sex marriage.

The suit challenging Puerto Rico's marriage ban was brought by a lesbian couple, Ada Conde Vidal and Ivonne Álvarez Velez, who sued to have their marriage performed in Massachussetts recognized by the commonwealth. As we previously reported, Conde decided to file the suit after realizing that she would be barred from making medical decisions on behalf of her ailing daughter. Puerto Rico's ban on same-sex marriage was enshrined into law in 1999 after lawmakers amended the U.S. commonwealth’s civil code to ban recognition of same-sex marriages.

Chris Johnson of The Washington Blade also points out that Judge Gimenez was appointed by President Jimmy Carter.

Read the decision, AFTER THE JUMP...

[h/t Chris Johnson]

Continue reading "Judge Upholds Puerto Rico's Ban On Same-Sex Marriage: READ" »


Lambda Legal Asks Court for Swift Ruling to End Discriminatory Marriage Ban in Puerto Rico: READ

Screenshot 2014-09-16 17.05.48

Lambda Legal is officially seeking a summary judgment from the District Court of Puerto Rico that would effectively put an end to the district’s same sex marriage ban. In June, Lambda Legal joined Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, an LGBT non-profit organization, in supporting the Conde v. Rius Armendariz class action lawsuit

Following a ceremony performed in Massachusetts Ivonne Álvarez Velez and Ada Conde Vidal became Puerto Rico’s first married lesbian couple. Since 1999, a Puerto Rican amendment to the commonwealth’s civil code has made it so that Puerto Rico does not recognize same sex marriages--even those performed in other jurisdictions. Conde, a lawyer by training, filed the suit after realizing that she would be barred from making medical decisions on behalf of her ailing daughter.

“If she dies, I want my marriage legally recognized,” Conde explained to the Washington Blade this past March. “If I am not recognized, I will not have any rights to request her estate.”

Conde and her partner are joined by four other gay and lesbian couples, two of whom are looking to actually be married within Puerto Rico, while the others seek to have their pre-existing marriages recognized.

“All families deserve to have their love and commitment recognized in Puerto Rico,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan Lambda Legal’s staff attorney working with Puerto Rico Para Tod@s. “They need the protections only marriage can provide as soon as possible, without discrimination.”

Read Conde v. Rius Armendariz's full legal brief, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Lambda Legal Asks Court for Swift Ruling to End Discriminatory Marriage Ban in Puerto Rico: READ" »


Wednesday Speed Read: Heather Mizeur, Executive Order, Joe Biden, NOM, 9th Circuit, Hochberg

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

MizeurMIZEUR COMES IN THIRD IN MARYLAND:

Six of 10 openly LGBT candidates won their primary races Tuesday; three lost; one race is still undetermined. Lesbian State Delegate Heather Mizeur was not one of the winners, but she made a strong showing in third place, just one point behind the state’s attorney general. Mizeur garnered 19 percent of the vote, putting her in third behind Attorney General Doug Gansler with 20 percent, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections. Some political observers think Mizeur “outshined her male opponents” during the campaign, said MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on the Daily Rundown Tuesday morning. But the primary winner, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown with 58 percent of the vote, had at least two advantages over Mizeur: He was running to become the state’s first African American governor in a state with a 30 percent African American population, and he won the endorsement of the statewide LGBT group Equality Maryland. For full election results, see related story.

EarnestNO DETAILS ON EXECUTIVE ORDER:

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during his daily press briefing Tuesday that he does not know whether the executive order that President Obama will sign prohibiting discrimination based by federal contractors will include an exemption for religious entities. And just as he was asked about the timing of the announcement last week that the President would sign such an order, a White House intern standing in the briefing room fainted and Earnest ended the press conference.

BidenBIDEN BRUSHES OFF THE TRIGLODYTES:

Speaking at a reception he hosted for participants and supporters of the White House Forum on Global LGBT Human Rights, Vice President Joe Biden said LGBT people coming out to family and friends is driving enormous progress in attitudes of ordinary Americans. “They are the majority, and those other folks, they are the troglodytes," said Biden, according to a White House pool report.

JUDGE AWARDS NOM $50,000:

NomlogoA federal district court judge in Virginia Tuesday ordered the U.S. to pay the National Organization for Marriage $50,000 for over an accidental public release of tax documents with confidential information that should have been redacted. Judge James Cacheris had ruled June 3 that an Internal Revenue Service clerk had mistakenly released the information to a member of the public who then shared it with the Human Rights Campaign and others. While Cacheris said he did not see evidence the release was deliberate and politically motivated, he said the IRS bears some responsibility for the legal expenses NOM incurred as a result of that error. NOM can still sue to recoup attorneys fees.

NINTH CIRCUIT REJECTS EN BANC:

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals announced Tuesday it would not grant a request from one of its own judges for a full court review of a panel decision requiring heightened scrutiny of laws that disadvantage people based on sexual orientation. Ninth Circuit states now bound by that panel decision in SmithKline v. Abbott include Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

RodriguezPUERTO RICO NOMINEE CONFIRMED:

The Puerto Rico Senate on Monday confirmed the nomination of lesbian attorney Maite Oronoz Rodríguez to serve on the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. Rodríguez is director of legal affairs for the city of San Juan. The vote was 16 to 10.
 
HOCHBERG IN THE HOT SEAT:

The openly gay chairman of the Export-Import Bank will be in front of a House committee this morning. The bank, which provides billions of dollars in loans to companies producing exports, needs reauthorization by Congress on September 30, but newly elected House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is against it.

© copyright 2014 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Friday Speed Read: ENDA, Utah, NOM, IRS, Puerto Rico, Patricia Todd, Uganda, Immigration

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

Finalvote_endaTWO MORE GROUPS DISS ENDA:

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equality Illinois issued separate statements Thursday, joining the chorus of those who say the current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) “falls short.” Equality Illinois says that, while it supports ENDA, its members “strongly oppose including any exemptions that would give LGBT people less protection than other protected groups already enjoy under federal civil rights law.” NCLR said it is “confident the current discriminatory religious exemption in ENDA will not be part of the final legislation,” but added it would “not continue to support ENDA if it is not changed to be consistent with Title VII’s religious exemption."

UtahTENTH CIRCUIT STAYS RECOGNITION ORDER:

The Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals agreed Thursday to a temporary stay of a federal district court judge’s ruling that Utah must recognize, for the purpose of state benefits, the 1,300 marriages performed for same-sex couples in the state prior to a U.S. Supreme Court stay of a decision striking the state ban. The appeals court is expected to decide by June 12 whether to grant a more permanent stay, in Evans v. Utah, until the Tenth Circuit can rule on the state’s ban, in Kitchen v. Herbert.

NOM-logoJUDGE DISMISSES MOST OF NOM-IRS LAWSUIT:

A federal district court judge in Virginia on June 3 dismissed most of a lawsuit by the National Organization for Marriage that claimed an employee of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service deliberately leaked a confidential tax document from NOM to the Human Rights Campaign. Judge James Cacheris said NOM failed to provide any evidence that the disclosure was deliberate and politically motivated; but, he said the IRS may bear some responsibility for the legal expenses NOM incurred as a result of that error and scheduled that issue for trial June 30. Story to follow later today.

RodriguezLESBIAN NOMINATED TO P.R. SUPREME COURT:

Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla on Wednesday nominated lesbian attorney Maite Oronoz Rodríguez to serve on the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. Rodríguez is director of legal affairs for the city of San Juan, served as deputy solicitor general for PR and briefly as its acting solicitor general. Lambda Legal issued a statement applauding the nomination of the “first openly lesbian judge” to the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. The nomination now goes to the PR senate for confirmation.

ToddMORE ELECTION WINNERS:

Openly gay Alabama state Representative Patricia Todd beat out two Democratic challengers in a primary race Tuesday, seeking her third term to represent Birmingham. Todd, the state’s first and only openly gay elected official, took 64 percent of the vote. And Richard Garcia was elected mayor of Long Beach, California, becoming the city’s first openly gay mayor.

Chad_griffinHRC URGES OBAMA ACTION AGAINST UGANDA:

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin sent President Obama a letter June 2, urging him to take “immediate, concrete” action to “illustrate the United States’ commitment to protecting human rights in Uganda.” Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in February. President Obama said at the time that the law would “complicate” U.S. relations with Uganda and the administration began an “internal review” of those relations.  “Delay is putting lives at risk,” wrote Griffin. “…The world is waiting for action….”

GROUPS URGE ACTION ON IMMIGRATION:

The Human Rights Campaign and 14 other groups signed onto a letter to President Obama June 3, urging him to take “swift executive action to suspend mass immigration detention and deportations.” The letter says Immigration and Custom Enforcement “has failed to take adequate steps to protect LGBT people from abuse and inhumane isolation in detention centers….”

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


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