October 28, 2014 at 5:32 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Puerto Rico marriage ruling appealed

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

Lambda Legal on Tuesday formally appealed a ruling that upheld Puerto Rico’s same-sex marriage ban in a case that a lesbian couple filed earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of Pedro Julio Serrano)

Lambda Legal on Tuesday formally appealed a federal judge’s decision to uphold Puerto Rico’s same-sex marriage ban.

The LGBT legal advocacy group filed a four-page motion with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston — under whose jurisdiction the American commonwealth falls — in a lawsuit originally filed by a lesbian couple who married in Massachusetts in 2004. The appeal comes a week after U.S. District Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez dismissed the case.

“Puerto Rico has many loving, committed couples who need the dignity and respect of marriage as soon as possible, and we won’t stop fighting on their behalf,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan of Lambda Legal.

Ada Conde Vidal and Ivonne Álvarez Vélez of San Juan filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in March. Four additional gay and lesbian couples along with Lambda Legal and Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, joined the case three months later.

Puerto Rico Para Tod@s President Pedro Julio Serrano; San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is from Puerto Rico, are among those who sharply criticized Pérez-Giménez over his ruling. Puerto Rico for the Family applauded the decision, arguing Puerto Rican citizens and lawmakers “should debate the possibility of defining marriage.”

Same-sex couples are currently able to legally marry in 32 states and D.C.

Puerto Rican lawmakers in 1999 amended the island’s civil code to ban the recognition of same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions. The U.S. commonwealth also does not recognize unions in which one person is transgender.

Pérez-Giménez is among a small handful of judges who have ruled against nuptials for gays and lesbians since the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

“The district’s court ruling is not only out of step with the rest of the country, it leaves Puerto Rico as the only jurisdiction within the First Circuit to ban marriage for same-sex couples,” said Gonzalez-Pagan. “During the past year reasoned rulings by district courts throughout the nation and the Courts of Appeals for the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Circuits, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court’s actions to let stand some of those rulings, clearly demonstrate that marriage bans, such as Puerto Rico’s, are unconstitutional.”

Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, who is among the defendants in the case, publicly supports civil unions for gays and lesbians. He reiterated his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples last week after Pérez-Giménez announced his ruling.

“The government should not be in the business of discriminating against its people,” said Gonzalez-Pagan. “It is disappointing that Puerto Rico continues to perpetuate the harms it causes to loving, committed Puerto Rican same-sex couples.”

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

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