June 4, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
Lesbian nominated to Puerto Rico Supreme Court

Puerto Rico, gay news, Washington Blade

A lesbian lawyer is poised to become the first out judge to sit on the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. (Graphic by Raimond Spekking)

A lesbian lawyer is poised to become the first out judge to sit on the Puerto Rico Supreme Court after Gov. Alejandro García Padilla on Wednesday announced her nomination.

Maite Oronoz Rodríguez appeared alongside García at his official residence in San Juan as he announced her nomination to fill a vacancy on the court. El Nuevo Día, a Puerto Rican newspaper, reported that Maite thanked her partner, Gina Méndez Miró, who is chief-of-staff for Puerto Rico Senate President Eduardo Bhatía, during the press conference.

“I am conscious of the enormous responsibility that has come to me,” said Maite as el Nueva Día reported.

Maite is currently the director of legal affairs for the city of San Juan.

“Today is a great day for equity,” said San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on her Twitter page.

Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, also applauded Maite and her partner.

“I congratulate, thank and celebrate Maite and Gina for living openly their love, for loving their homeland so much and for loving themselves openly,” said Serrano. “Today is a glorious day for equality.”

Dr. José Toro Alfonso, a faculty member of the University of Puerto Rico Department of Psychology who advocates on behalf of LGBT Puerto Ricans and those living with HIV/AIDS, described Maite as a “young, respected and openly lesbian woman.” He categorized her nomination to the Puerto Rico Supreme Court as “amazing.”

Puerto Rico has seen significant progress on a host of LGBT-specific issues since García took office in January 2013.

García has thus far signed four pro-LGBT bills into law — including measures banning anti-LGBT discrimination in the U.S. commonwealth and adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the island’s domestic violence laws. A lesbian couple from San Juan earlier this year filed a federal lawsuit seeking recognition of their Massachusetts marriage in Puerto Rico.

Homophobic and transphobic violence remains a serious concern among the island’s advocates, but Serrano stressed Maite’s nomination is another step forward for LGBT Puerto Ricans.

“I said last year when four laws in support of the LGBTT community were approved: There is no going back,” said Serrano. “Today we take a historic step in the right direction that demonstrates that Puerto Rico is for all of us. The governor has made an excellent nomination.”

Toro told the Blade he expects the Puerto Rico Senate will approve Maite’s nomination during confirmation hearings that are scheduled to take place next week.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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