Federal judge upholds Puerto Rico's ban on same-sex marriage

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If you thought same-sex marriage was a settled deal in the U.S. after the Supreme Court's decision last June, guess again.

NBC News reports a federal court judge in Puerto Rico has upheld the U.S. territory's ban on same-sex marriage, ruling that the Supreme Court's ruling does not apply to the island.


The 10-page ruling is the latest in a 2014 lawsuit filed by five same-sex Puerto Rican couples against the territory's government to overturn a 1999 law that defines marriage as "… a civil contract whereby a man and a woman mutually agree to become husband and wife …"

In a ruling last October, Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez upheld this law, blocking Puerto Rico from recognizing same-sex marriages. But in light of the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges an appeals court vacated the original ruling and sent the suit back to Pérez-Giménez.

But the judge has not changed his mind, and has taken the view that the Supreme Court's ruling applies to states only, not territories like Puerto Rico.

"One might be tempted to assume that the constant reference made to the 'States' in Obergefell includes the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Yet, it is not the role of this court to venture into such an interpretation," Pérez-Giménez wrote in his ruling.


The decision is an awkward one as same-sex couples have been filing for and receiving marriage licenses since the Court of Appeals decision over the summer. Some of the plaintiffs in the case have since gotten married.


There isn't even much disagreement among the parties of the lawsuit anymore. The government filed a brief last March that they would no longer attempt to defend the law. Governor Alejandro García Padilla, one of the named defendants in the bill, has said there is an "undeniable consensus" against banning same-sex marriage.

It remains to be seen how the decision will affect same-sex couples seeking to get married. The decision can still be appealed.

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