Puerto Rico Hub

Federal Appeals Court Halts Proceedings in Challenge to Puerto Rico Gay Marriage Ban Pending SCOTUS Ruling

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals has put a case challenging Puerto Rico's ban on same-sex marriage on hold pending the outcome of the upcoming Supreme Court hearing of four same-sex marriage cases set to take place at the end of April.

PuertoricoWrote the court:

Plaintiffs-appellants ask this court to schedule oral argument "as soon as possible and, in any event, no later than this Court's July/August 2015 sitting." In view of the cases pending before the Supreme Court, we think it is premature to set an oral argument date at this time. Within 14days of the Supreme Court's decision in the same-sex marriage cases, Obergefell v. Hodges, No.14-556, etc., the parties shall confer and propose a schedule for further proceedings.

Read the order here.

Guam Rejects Gay Couple’s Marriage License Application, Attorney General Declines To Comment Until ‘Later Time’


Guam couple Loretta M. Pangelinan and Kathleen M. Aguero’s marriage license application, the first to be submitted in the U.S. territory, was rejected by a Department of Public Health and Social Service clerk this week, the AP reported. Under Guam law a marriage license is only issued to opposite sex couples.

The U.S. District Court of Guam falls under the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has ruled in favor of marriage equality. Pangelinan and Aguero’s attorney, R. Todd Thompson, says the couple plans on taking their case to federal court and that he expects the Guam court to follow the appeals court’s precedent. Although many same-sex couples on Guam usually fly to Hawaii or Washington to marry, Pangelinan and Aguero wish to marry in Guam so their friends and family may all attend.

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 6.59.05 AMGuam’s Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson said that she is "deferring answering further questions on the issue of gay marriage until a later time." Barrett-Anderson’s statement issued to Pacific Daily News came a day after she issued a public statement that the island’s health department was, "Acting in compliance with Guam law," when it denied Pangelinan and Aguero’s marriage application on Wednesday. On April 9, Barrett-Anderson said, "Whether Guam’s statutes will stand or fail will soon be definitely decided by the Supreme Court of the United States for our entire nation and upon that decision Guam will abide."

Of the five U.S. Pacific and Caribbean territories, only Puerto Rico has faced a marriage rights lawsuit for gay and lesbian couples. The federal judge of Puerto Rico rejected the suit. The case later appealed to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, but Puerto Rico’s Justice Department stated last month that it would not defend its own laws banning gay marriage, with Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda stating that the government can no longer continue to discriminate against the gay community.

Watch a report on the couple and the license denial, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Guam Rejects Gay Couple’s Marriage License Application, Attorney General Declines To Comment Until ‘Later Time’" »

Puerto Rican Government May Soon Stop Defending Its Same-Sex Marriage Ban

A new report out of Puerto Rico suggests that the U.S. commonwealth may soon ends its defense of a statute that bans same-sex couples from getting married. Via The Washington Blade:

6a00d8341c730253ef0192aa799605970d-200wiEl Nuevo Día reported Gov. Alejandro García Padilla’s administration is “contemplating” a “change of posture” and will “withdraw its support of the Puerto Rican statute that only recognizes marriage as a union between a man and a woman.”

The governor — who is named as a defendant in a lawsuit against the U.S. commonwealth’s gay nuptials ban that two women from San Juan filed last March — has until Friday to submit a formal response to the case with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston which is considering the lawsuit.

“I prefer not to comment on any final decision,” Puerto Rico Justice Minister César Miranda told El Nuevo Día during an interview in D.C. where he was attending a hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 

In a follow up question, Miranda "appeared to suggest" that Puerto Rico would change its policy on same-sex marriage. However, a spokesperson for Puerto Rico's Department of Justice, Amber Lee Vélez, was illusive when responding to The Washington Blade's request for a comment on Miranda's remarks:

On same-sex marriages, Secretary César Miranda has said that there is litigation in the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in which (the Puerto Rico Justice Department) has until this Friday, March 20, to file a response on the part of the state,” said Lee. “It will be the appropriate moment to publicly share the state’s position to the point raised once this task has been completed.” 

Previously, Governor Padilla signed an LGBT rights bill into law in May of 2013.

'Ex-Gay' Puerto Rico Priest Defends Past As Gay Adult Film Star


Jose Santiago (above right), a priest at the House of Prayer Monte Santo in Puerto Rico, has refused to resign after details of his former career as a gay adult film star emerged, reports Pink News.

Jose santiagoUnder the stage name Gustavo Arrango, Santiago starred in the 2010 adult flick Pride Part 2 and was nominated for best group sex scene.

Santiago has resisted calls for his resignation because he is no longer gay and is now happily married to a lucky, lucky woman.

“In those days I was gay and participated in homosexual activities, but God touched me, God transformed me, God gave me a woman who loves me and she loves my past.

“I haven’t seen any of these films in years. I don’t receive any money for them and it’s part of a life that is over.

“We have all done things we regret. That part of my life was before I knew God.”

Readers of Latin Times are convinced that the priest's best course of action is to return to a career in adult film.

Back in December, we reported that a new book by former seminarian Dr John Weafer revealed that there is a strong gay scene among priests in the Irish Catholic Church.

Gay priest santiago

Marriage Equality and the Court: What Happened in Puerto Rico?



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.

2_circuitsPuerto 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, 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...

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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.”


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