( San Juan, PR, March 8, 2016 ) Today, the U.S. District Court of the District of Puerto Rico ruled that the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges striking down discriminatory marriage bans nationwide did not apply to Puerto Rico because it is not a state, and denied a joint motion brought by Lambda Legal and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to declare Puerto Rico's ban on marriage for same-sex couples unconstitutional. Lambda Legal will appeal the ruling.
"The fundamental right to marriage applies across the United States, in states and territories alike," said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. "This aberrant and fundamentally flawed decision is out of step with the times and incongruent with the constitutional principles applicable to all persons in the United States, whether they live in a state or territory and whether they are straight or gay. The U.S. Supreme Court has unequivocally stated that the constitutional promises of liberty and equality apply with equal force to residents of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit was clear when it stated that Puerto Rico's marriage ban was unconstitutional. The fundamental right of LGBT people to marry in Puerto Rico is not in question.
"We look forward to once again vindicating the rights of LGBT people on the Island and ensuring that loving couples in Puerto Rico have the dignity, fairness, and security under the law that they deserve. We will not stop fighting until all LGBT people and their families in the United States, including in Puerto Rico, have equal access to the protections of legal marriage. The constitutional mandates are clear: marriages licensed by the Commonwealth between LGBT couples are not in limbo; they are valid."
In July, after the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacated the district court's original ruling in Conde-Vidal, et al v. Rius-Armendariz, et al that had upheld Puerto Rico's discriminatory ban, ordering further consideration by the district court in light of Obergefell, and agreeing that the ban is unconstitutional. Subsequently, Puerto Rico began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and Lambda Legal and the defendants filed a Joint Motion for Entry of Judgment seeking a judgment that all provisions of Puerto Rico law banning licensing and recognition of marriage for LGBT people is unconstitutional and no longer enforceable. The district court's ruling today denied that motion after months of waiting.
The case was originally brought by a same-sex couple seeking recognition of their marriage, which they entered into in Massachusetts. In June 2014, Lambda Legal joined the lawsuit in representation of four additional plaintiff couples and an organizational plaintiff, Puerto Rico Para Tod@s.
Lambda Legal attorneys Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Hayley Gorenberg, and Karen Loewy are handling the case, joined by co-counsel Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP and Celina Romany-Siaca. Ada Conde-Vidal, who is represented by JosÃƒ© L. Nieto, represents her wife.
Read about the case here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/conde-v-rius-armendariz
Read more about our plaintiff couples and their children here: www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20140625_puerto-rico-meet-the-families .