June 25, 2014 at 3:12 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Four same-sex couples join Puerto Rico marriage lawsuit

Ivonne Álvarez Velez, Pedro Julio Serrano, Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, Ada Conde Vidal, gay news, Washington Blade

Ivonne Álvarez Velez, left, with Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s and Ada Conde Vidal. (Photo courtesy of Pedro Julio Serrano)

Four gay and lesbian couples on Wednesday joined a federal same-sex marriage lawsuit in Puerto Rico.

Iris Delia Rivera Rivera, a former member of the Puerto Rico National Guard, and Maritza López Aviles have been together for 38 years and have a daughter. Zulma Oliveras Vega and Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro of Carolina also have a daughter.

José A. Torruellas Iglesias and Thomas J. Robinson of San Juan, who have been together for 13 years, married in Canada in 2007. Johanne Vélez García and Faviola Meléndez Rodríguez of Guaynabo, who have been together for six years, tied the knot in New York in 2012.

Lambda Legal and Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, also joined the lawsuit that Ada Mercedes Conde Vidal and Ivonne Álvarez Vélez of San Juan filed in March in the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico

Conde and Álvarez who have been together for nearly 14 years married in Massachusetts in 2004. They are raising their daughter in the Puerto Rican capital.

Conde is also one of the lawyers in the case.

“Puerto Rico is our home, we are very proud of our U.S. citizenship and we are not second-class citizens,” she said in a press release. “We demand our equality, proclaim our love though our marriage and our right to happiness in Puerto Rico.”

“Puerto Rico is loving, respectful, inclusive, supportive and responsive,” added Puerto Rico Para Tod@s Director Pedro Julio Serrano. “The majority of our people support marriage equality for partners of LGBTT people because it is consistent with our values of respect, inclusion and equality.”

Puerto Rican lawmakers in 1999 amended the U.S. commonwealth’s civil code to ban recognition of same-sex marriages — even those legally performed in other jurisdictions. Unions in which one person is transgender are also not recognized.

Gov. Alejandro García Padilla supports civil unions for gays and lesbians, but has yet to publicly back marriage rights for same-sex couples. The Democrat has signed a bill that added sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to Puerto Rico’s anti-discrimination law and three other pro-LGBT measures into law since taking office in January 2013.

Maite Oronoz Rodríguez will become the first openly LGBT judge on the U.S. commonwealth’s Supreme Court after the Puerto Rico Senate on Monday confirmed her nomination.

San Juan Archbishop Roberto González Nieves, Rev. Wanda Rolón and others religious figures are among those who continue to oppose efforts to expand rights to LGBT Puerto Ricans.

“Our people are already on the right side of history,” said Serrano. “Now it’s the government’s turn.”

Same-sex couples can legally marry in 20 states and D.C.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Wednesday struck down Utah’s gay nuptials ban. A federal judge in Indiana earlier in the day ruled the Hoosier State’s prohibition of same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.

More than 20 federal and state courts have ruled in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples since the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

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

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