Federal judge in Puerto Rico upholds discrimination; plaintiffs vow to appeal

Yesterday, October 21, a U.S. District Court Judge broke from the nearly 50 judges in states across the country who have ruled in favor of the freedom to marry this year by dismissing a legal challenge to Puerto Rico's marriage ban.

The decision to dismiss the case is stunningly out of step - since June 2013, only one other federal judge has upheld marriage discrimination, in Louisiana -  and the hostile language throughout the ruling from U.S. District Judge Juan Perez-Gimenez is dissappointing. But supporters of the freedom to marry in Puerto Rico are unflagging in their determination to reverse the decision on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit. There, we know that love will win. We are one country with one Constitution, and Freedom to Marry will not rest until same-sex couples in the entire nation have the freedom to marry. 

The case, Conde v. Rius Armendariz, was filed on behalf of “Puerto Rico Para Tod@s,” Puerto Rico’s leading LGBT advocacy group, and five same-sex couples, including Ada Mercedes Conde Vidal & Ivonne Álvarez Vélez, who have been together for 14 years and were legally married in Massachusetts. Lambda Legal is co-counsel on the case.

Following the decision last night, Lambda Legal staff attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan said:

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. 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. All families in Puerto Rico need the protections of marriage.

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder and president of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, added:

"It is outrageous that loving committed LGBT couples and their families have been deprived of their civil rights and dignity. We are hopeful that justice will prevail and that the equality promised by the Constitution will be upheld."

Since June 2013, nearly 50 separate rulings have been issued finding laws that deny the freedom to marry to same-sex couples unconstitutional. In 32 U.S. states, same-sex couples have the freedom to marry, with those protections sure to arrive imminently in three other states. 

Learn where we stand on the freedom to marry - and how we're working to finish the job - in the other 18 states that still discriminate here