March 18, 2015 at 9:41 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Report: Puerto Rico government to no longer defend marriage ban
Alejandro García Padilla, Puerto Rico, Washington Blade, gay news

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla (Public domain photo by the U.S. Department of Labor)

A Puerto Rican newspaper this week reported the government of the U.S. commonwealth is poised to announce that it will no longer defend the island’s same-sex marriage ban.

El 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.

Miranda appeared to suggest in response to a follow up question that the Puerto Rican government will change its position on marriage rights for same-sex couples.

U.S. District Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez last October dismissed the case.

Lambda Legal, which joined the lawsuit in June 2014, appealed Pérez-Giménez’s ruling to the 1st Circuit.

“We are encouraged that the government is reconsidering its defense of its discriminatory ban on the freedom to marry for same-sex couples,” said Oscar Gonzalez-Pagan, staff attorney for Lambda Legal, on Monday in a statement. “We have always maintained that the ban is unconstitutional and we are eager for a court to vindicate the rights of our plaintiff couples.”

Amber Lee Vélez, a spokesperson for the Puerto Rico Department of Justice, on Tuesday responded to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on Miranda’s comments.

“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.”

Wanda Rolón, a Puerto Rican pastor who is a vocal opponent of marriage rights for same-sex couples, told a local radio station that God would punish the island if García’s administration allows gays and lesbians to legally marry.

“The country is unfortunately opening itself up to a godless condemnation,” said Rolón. “It will come true.”

The Washington Blade will provide further updates as they become available.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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