Tag Archives: puerto rico

Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger: Military must pursue alternatives to burning munitions

With President Barack Obama’s signature on the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, a nationwide grassroots campaign to ensure the safe disposal of conventional munitions stockpile secured a key victory.

The amendment, written by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., will benefit hundreds of communities across the country where open air burning of hazardous waste is routinely conducted by the Departments of Defense and Energy, according to a news release.

“I have been working on cleaning up the Badger Army Ammunition Plant since I first entered Congress, so I was proud to fight for this reform to help other communities facing similar challenges,” Baldwin said, according to the release. “This provision will assist the military in using safer and more environmentally-friendly technologies to properly dispose of munitions to ensure that other sites are not contaminated the way that the Badger site was.”

“I was proud to support and help shepherd through the Senate, the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act which includes a provision important to Madison County and the Blue Grass Army Depot community allowing the Army to use cost-competitive technologies to safely and efficiently dispose of stockpiles of legacy conventional munitions,” added U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The new act requires the Secretary of the Army to enter into an arrangement with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to conduct a study of the alternatives to the current practice of open burning the conventional munitions stockpile of the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Department of Defense manages conventional ammunition that includes items ranging from small arms cartridges to rockets, mortars, and artillery to tactical missiles.

As of February 2015, the stockpile of conventional ammunition awaiting demilitarization and disposal was approximately 529,373 tons.

By fiscal year 2020, the stockpile is expected to more than double, making the proper management and disposal of such large quantities of explosive materiel critical. 

“Open burning and detonation of munitions causes the uncontrolled dispersion of toxic heavy metals including chromium and lead, energetic compounds, perchlorate, nitrogen oxides and other munitions-related contaminants to the environment,” said Laura Olah, executive director of Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger in Wisconsin and an organizer with the Cease Fire Campaign – a national grassroots coalition of 60 environmental, labor, veterans and social justice organizations calling for safer alternatives. 

Sites like the Holston Army Ammunition Plant in Tennessee are currently permitted to open burn as much as 1,250,000 pounds net explosive waste per year — ignoring a 2012 Army Corps of Engineers study that concluded there are cutting-edge technologies that could be successfully deployed at Holston to replace open burning.

“There are over 100 hazardous chemicals released from open burning waste explosives and explosives-contaminated construction demolition debris that can be toxic and carcinogenic,” cautioned Connie & Mark Toohey with Volunteers for Environmental Health and Justice and residents living downwind of Holston. “Dioxins are highly toxic and cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system and can interfere with hormones.”

Also, for more than 60 years, the U. S. military used the offshore Island of Vieques, Puerto Rico for training exercises with live bombing, experimental use of conventional and non-conventional weapons, testing with napalm, agent orange, uranium and open burning and open detonation (OB/OD),” said Myrna Pagan with Vidas Viequenses Valen. “For over 10 years now there is a process of cleanup and restoration underway where OB/OD continues to contaminate this small island.”

“OB/OD is a dangerous, toxic and outdated method that feeds a health crisis of alarming rates of cancer and other catastrophic diseases,” Myrna added.  “Our little children, our teen agers have more than three times the probability of dying from cancer than their peers in the rest of Puerto Rico. We citizens depend on responsible action from the government to protect our rights to good health in a safe environment. We deserve the use of reliable, alternative, advanced technologies to repair this disaster.”

The National Academy of Sciences study is due to Congress in 18 months. 

5 victims in Orlando shooting all from 1 community in Puerto Rico

Eduardo Pacheco wrote the names of every person killed in an Orlando nightclub on a bright green poster spread across the hood of a car, preparing for a vigil to the fallen. He stopped halfway, unable to go on as tears filled his eyes.

Five of the names on the list were his friends, all from the city of Ponce in Puerto Rico, an island that endured a wave of losses following the June 12 attack in the Pulse gay nightclub as it was celebrating Latin night.

Mourners young and old clutched candles and posters at the June 13 vigil in this southern coastal city, still stunned by the news.

“It was such a tremendous loss. He was such a great human being. All five of them were,” said Pacheco of his best friend, who was among those killed, and the other four victims. He said two of them were on vacation in Orlando, Florida, while the other three had moved there in recent years.

The shooting hit the close-knit LGBT community of Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second largest city on its southern coast, particularly hard. Many knew the five victims and said some had moved to Orlando to find jobs and flee a dire economic crisis that has sparked the largest exodus of Puerto Ricans to the U.S. mainland in decades.

Many, like 25-year-old Leroy Valentin, were musicians and dancers.

Valentin had played in Ponce’s municipal band for a decade and was member of a dance group. His favorite music was reggaeton and he also admired pop singer Christina Aguilera. He had moved to Orlando two years ago but came back to Puerto Rico a couple of months ago for a surprise visit, Pacheco said.

“He was a humble, courteous person who liked to help others and was respectful,” Pacheco said.

Pacheco was among the more than 200 people who gathered at a historic plaza in Ponce to honor those killed by 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who attacked club-goers wielding an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a handgun. At least 49 people were killed and another 53 were wounded.

Fear over the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history almost caused the vigil in Ponce to be canceled, said Omar Ruiz, one of the organizers.

“A lot of people approached me because they were scared to come and thought that the same thing would happen here,” he said, adding that he called police and requested security.

Many expressed anger that the young men were seeking a better life in Orlando only to be shot dead.

“This is a hit to the democracy that they talk about so much in the United States,” said Yan Serrano Rosado, member of a human rights group in Ponce.

Prominent Puerto Rican gay rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano said his “heart is in pieces” following the shooting at the nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

“This impacts very, very closely to the heart of the Puerto Rican LGBT community. It’s an unspeakable tragedy and it could have been any one of us,” Serrano told The Associated Press shortly after flying to Orlando to comfort grieving friends.

For years, thousands of Puerto Ricans have flocked to Orlando and other central Florida communities to pursue job opportunities. As Puerto Rico’s entrenched financial crisis has worsened over the past year, the influx has only grown and that includes LGBT citizens, activists say.

“The majority went in search of a better future,” Ruiz said. “Unfortunately, they lost their lives. Now we have to fight so that none of it was in vain. Let this gives us strength as a community.”

Congress’ grade so far? Incomplete at best

Congress is racing toward its summer break, but like a procrastinating college kid it has tons of work to catch up on to avoid a report card laden with grades of incomplete or even worse.

An abbreviated work period this month produced mixed results at best — Congress exited Washington without acting on funding the battle against the Zika virus, for starters — and a full plate awaits when lawmakers return next month from a weeklong Memorial Day recess for a six-week sprint to political convention season and the traditional August vacation.

Some signs are promising; others, not so much.


President Barack Obama’s $1.9 billion request to battle the Zika virus has been sitting before Congress for more than three months, but in only the past few weeks have GOP leaders shown any sense of urgency about passing legislation in response. Zika can cause grave birth defects and be spread by certain mosquitoes.

The House and Senate have passed competing measures, with the Senate approving a $1.1 billion bipartisan bill that closely tracks Obama’s request, at least if one counts the more than $500 million Obama has diverted from unspent Ebola funding toward the total. The House measure would provide $622 million and cuts further into Ebola accounts to help pay for it.

A logical outcome would be to pass a measure relatively close to the Senate’s level on funding and include offsetting spending cuts as demanded by the House. But politics have infused the Zika measure, which isn’t helping.

Negotiators have four weeks to reach agreement when they return if they are to meet a July deadline.


Legislation to ease Puerto Rico’s debt crisis has cleared one hurdle with easy approval in a House committee. The legislation now heads to the House floor, where Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will try to unite his fractious caucus behind the bill. The bill to create a financial control board and restructure some of the U.S. territory’s $70 billion debt has support from House Republican and Democratic leaders, as well as the Obama administration. Some bondholders are lobbying against it, though, saying it gives the board too much power to decide what payments will be a priority.

Senate prospects are unclear. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested the Senate may take up the House bill once it passes that chamber. But some Senate Democrats have complained that the board would take away too much authority from the Puerto Rican government under the House legislation.

When Congress returns in June, lawmakers will have just four weeks to act before Puerto Rico faces its largest debt payment of $2 billion on July 1.


Republicans have given up on trying to pass a broad, if nonbinding, budget plan, instead focusing on passing spending bills for the annual operations of the government. That’s not going so well either, at least in the House.

There, the issue of gay rights has blown up the appropriations process, scuttling a normally routine energy and water projects on Thursday. Whether it can be revived is unclear, but signs point to the typical omnibus spending package wrapping together most of the spending bills during December’s lame-duck session.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has made it a priority to try to revive the appropriations process in that chamber. With Democratic help it’s going reasonably well, and three of the 12 bills have already passed. But even with senators on their best behavior, the process can be halting.


Democrats blocked the Senate from taking up the annual defense policy legislation before the recess, saying they needed more time to study the more than 1,600-page bill. The postponement incensed Senate Republicans. They say Minority Leader Harry Reid — who faced comparable stalling tactics from McConnell for years when Democrats controlled the chamber — was more interested in depriving Republicans of an election-year accomplishment before Memorial Day.

The defense policy bill authorizes military spending for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The legislative package also prohibits the administration from transferring detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States, requires women to register for a potential military draft, and proposes numerous changes to the military health system to improve the quality of care.

The companion House measure effectively adds $18 billion to core Pentagon programs through a proposed shift of war funding to other Pentagon accounts. The Senate measure doesn’t, and the difference is likely to delay a final resolution.


House-Senate bargainers hope to send Obama compromise legislation by July establishing grants and taking other steps to reinforce government efforts against drug abuse.


Also left undone is a bipartisan measure that is the first major update of the nation’s chief chemical safety law in 40 years. It would for the first time regulate tens of thousands of toxic chemicals in everyday products from household cleaners to clothing and furniture.

Supporters say the bill would clear up a hodgepodge of state rules and ensure that chemicals and products used by Americans every day are safer.

The House overwhelmingly approved the bill on Tuesday, but the measure ran into a snag in the Senate when Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., objected to its passage and said he’d not had time to read it.


With Republican leaders continuing to resist Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, no Senate action on filling that slot is expected until after the November elections — at the earliest.

Puerto Rican judge nominated as 1st gay chief justice in U.S.

Puerto Rican judge Maite Oronoz Rodriguez has been nominated to head the U.S. territory’s Supreme Court as the first openly gay chief justice in the United States.

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla announced the nomination on Friday afternoon calling it a “new time” for Puerto Rico’s judicial branch. At 39, Oronoz Rodriguez is also the youngest member of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court.

“It’s time to strengthen justice to face the challenges” and “to pass the administration of justice to present generations who will live the results,” the governor said in making the nomination.

The 39-year-old was first appointed to the high court in June 2014. She previously served as the commonwealth’s deputy solicitor general and chief legal counselor for the city of San Juan.

In accepting the nomination, Oronoz Rodriguez said it was time for her to “step down from the podium and receive with open arms a citizenry that demands human justice.”

Her nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.

Oronoz Rodriguez is in a relationship with Gina Mendez, the chief of staff for Senate President Eduardo Bhatia.

Gay rights activists hailed the nomination.

“With this nomination, Maite Oronoz Rodriguez makes judicial history; not just in Puerto Rico, but for the entire country,” said Lambda Legal attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan. He called the nomination “a significant step towards a judiciary that reflects the growing diversity of the United States.” Lambda is a nonprofit group that aims to achieve full civil rights for gay people.

School uniform rules relaxed for LGBT students in Puerto Rico

Students at public schools across Puerto Rico for the first time can choose to wear pants or skirts as part of their uniform regardless of their gender without being punished, a move that has unleashed a debate in this socially conservative island.

Education Secretary Rafael Roman said this week that the new regulation he recently signed is meant to be inclusive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students. He added that teachers will no longer be allowed to discipline students who prefer to wear pants instead of skirts or vice versa.

“No student can be sanctioned for not opting to wear a particular piece of clothing … that he or she does not feel comfortable with,” he told reporters.

Girls at public schools in Puerto Rico traditionally wear skirts as part of their uniforms and the boys wear pants.

LGBT civil rights activists and some school officials praised the measure, which comes months after Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla signed an executive order prohibiting bullying in public schools based on sexual orientation.

“It’s a bit late, but it was approved, which is important,” said Cristina Torres, director of a high school in Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second-largest city. “Changing people’s mentality from one day to another will be hard … The most incredible thing is that young people can accept this with an open mind, but it’s the adults who discriminate.”

Torres is familiar with the issue. Teachers filed a complaint against her two years ago for appearing in a picture with a student who wore women’s clothing at his graduation. The student was a victim of bullying and had received an award for overcoming difficult circumstances, she said.

“Our responsibility is to protect students’ rights,” Torres said.

However, critics of the new regulation accused government officials of acting like dictators and stripping parents of their power.

“Once again, this government and the Department of Education work against what’s best for our children,'” said officials with Alerta Puerto Rico, a conservative group that says it was founded to promote family and childhood values.

But Roman argues that parents have the final word on how their children dress for school since they’re the ones buying the uniform. He added that several school districts in the U.S. mainland have adopted similar regulations.

Messages left with the U.S. Department of Education were not immediately returned.

Paola Gonzalez, a 39-year-old transsexual woman who grew up in Puerto Rico and now lives in Albany, New York, said she wished the measure would have been approved years ago.

“It would have simplified my life,” she said, adding that she has some concerns about the new regulation given what she described as Puerto Rico’s “macho” culture.

“For a student to come out and say I identify with this gender and wear these clothes … that will be a big step,” Gonzalez said. “The school may also have to consider the safety of the student.”

Garcia’s administration previously approved several measures in favor of the gay community, including one that allows transgender and transsexual people to change their gender on their driver’s license and another that protects their rights when seeking medical services.

Puerto Rico plans for mass same-sex wedding

More than 60 gay couples are preparing to exchange vows at a mass wedding in Puerto Rico on Aug. 16, celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court ruling affecting the socially conservative U.S. territory, organizers said.

Most of the couples are Puerto Ricans, but others from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Venezuela also are participating in the event scheduled to take place in San Juan’s colonial district.

“This is a historic event for all of Puerto Rico,” said organizer Ada Conde, an attorney who had filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have her gay marriage recognized in the U.S. territory prior to the Supreme Court decision. “This is not a show. This is not a parade. This is a solemn event to celebrate the fruit of our sacrifice.”

Conde said she anticipated protests and noted that police officers would be posted at the ceremony.

Puerto Rico until recently prohibited same-sex marriage and the recognition of such marriages, but the government struck down those laws after the Supreme Court decision. Officials also now allow gay couples to adopt children, and two couples have already begun that process, said Nancy Vega, director of the island’s demographics office.

Among those getting married in the ceremony is Maritza Lopez, who has been with her partner for 39 years and was among those who filed a lawsuit against Puerto Rico’s government.

“You would think that after 39 years I wouldn’t be nervous, but I am,” she said with a laugh. “I have butterflies in my stomach. I didn’t think any of this was going to happen so quickly.”

Previously, the administration of Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla had approved several measures in in favor of the gay community, including one that prohibits employment discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation and another that extends a domestic violence law to gay couples.

This week, the governor also signed two executive orders that will allow transgender people to change their driver’s license and protect their rights when seeking medical services.

Status of same-sex marriage in Guam, U.S. territories

Guam’s attorney general and governor are at odds over whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry in the U.S. territory.

On April 15, the attorney general directed officials to begin processing marriage license applications from same-sex couples. But the governor said he wanted to study the issue more and his public health director said he wouldn’t accept such applications.

Guam would be the first territory in the nation to allow gay marriage if the attorney general’s view prevails.

Here’s the latest status of gay marriage in Guam.


The U.S. District Court of Guam falls under the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which has ruled in favor of gay marriage. Guam’s Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson said in her directive that public health department officials should process marriage license applications from same-sex couples based on the 9th Circuit’s decision in October finding state bans on gay marriage unconstitutional. But Public Health Acting Director Leo Casil said his office won’t accept applications from same-sex couples “until further notice,” the Pacific Daily News newspaper on Guam reported.


Gov. Eddie Calvo said in a statement he respects the attorney general’s view but noted the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld state bans on same-sex marriages. (He didn’t mention that Guam falls under the 9th Circuit, not the 6th, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.) He also observed the Supreme Court will soon hear oral arguments on gay marriage. He suggested Guam lawmakers could pass legislation allowing gay marriage, or voters could do so in a referendum, “if it is the will of the people of Guam to make same-sex marriage legal.” Guam Legislature Vice Speaker BJ Cruz said Calvo “has never been in favor of same-gender marriage.” Cruz said the governor would “veto whatever bill we pass.”


Guam’s attorney general is elected, not appointed by the governor. Barrett-Anderson previously served in the Guam Legislature and was a judge on the Superior Court of Guam for 14 years.

Calvo, the governor, was elected in 2010. The former business executive has served five terms in the Guam Senate. His official biography said, “He is a man of deep faith, guided more by Christian values than any rule of politics.” He attends Mass at a Roman Catholic church in the territory’s capital.


The case has echoes of the situation in Alabama. A federal judge there ordered an Alabama probate judge must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the Alabama Supreme Court told all probate judges to refuse to issue the licenses. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to settle the issue later this year. Guam’s case is different in that no judge has weighed in.


If Guam allows gay marriage it would be the first U.S. territory to do so.

A lawsuit challenging a Puerto Rico law defining marriage as between a man and a woman has been put on hold pending a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said this week it will await that decision before scheduling oral arguments in the Puerto Rico case. The island’s Justice Department previously has defended the laws in court, but local Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda said last month that the department will no longer do so.


Loretta M. Pangelinan and Kathleen M. Aguero sued early this week in U.S. District Court in Guam after their marriage application was refused last week.

The couple, both 28, say they are challenging “the discriminatory denial of their freedom to marry” in Guam.

Given the governor and health department’s resistance to the attorney general’s directive, a lawyer for the couple has said they have no choice but to move forward with their federal lawsuit. The issue of same-sex marriage is expected to go before the Supreme Court on April 28.

Puerto Rico seeks to recognize same-sex marriages

Puerto Rico’s Justice Department announced earlier this month that it would not defend the U.S. territory’s laws banning gay couples from marrying. The announcement was a major turnaround.

Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda said that the government can no longer continue to discriminate against the gay community.

“It’s neither fair nor correct to defend the constitutionality of that law,” he said. “Same-sex couples cannot get married and therefore do not have access to those rights. They should be available to all those who love each other, who take care of each other, who work and contribute to this society like everyone else.”

The announcement came a year after several gay couples in Puerto Rico filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Puerto Rican laws that define marriage as between a man and a woman, as well as those that prohibit same-sex marriage and the recognition of such marriages.

“Today’s actions fulfill the constitutional promises of justice and fairness for LGBT people in Puerto Rico,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a staff attorney with the civil rights group Lambda Legal. “Simply put, discrimination is never in Puerto Rico’s best interests.”

The territory’s Justice Department had defended the laws before a federal judge who upheld them, but the case has been appealed to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, and Miranda said the department will no longer intervene.

Hundreds celebrated the news in Puerto Rico, including Johanne Velez, an attorney and consultant who married her partner in New York in 2012 and is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“It is a historic day, and we are ecstatic,” she said in a phone interview. “When we say it is historic, we are changing the lives of people not just for us, but around us. We hope that it will make society a better place for future generations.”

Miranda made the announcement a week after a group of legislators from Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla’s party said they supported gay marriage, including Senate President Eduardo Bhatia. While the governor has repeatedly stated that he is not in favor of gay marriage, he said he supports the change.

“Everyone knows my religious beliefs, but it’s not up to political leaders to impose our creeds,” he said. “We have to push for the progress of civil and human rights under equal conditions for everyone.”

Thirty-seven U.S. states allow same-sex marriages, a number that has quadrupled in the last two years. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June regarding several same-sex marriage cases that would also apply to Puerto Rico and four other U.S. territories.

Opposition lawmakers and religious leaders criticized the announcement and accused Garcia of imposing changes instead of consulting with the public and holding a referendum.

“This is a slap in the face to Puerto Rican society,” said legislator Maria Milagros Charbonier. “The government should not be playing around with issues as delicate as that of family, which is the cornerstone of our island.”

Amarilis Pagan, spokeswoman for a local equal rights committee, said in a phone interview that advocates would now push Puerto Rico’s government to reverse a law that bans adoptions by same-sex parents. The island’s Supreme Court upheld the law in a 2013 ruling following an appeal by a Puerto Rican woman who sought to adopt a teenage girl that her partner of more than 20 years had given birth to through in vitro fertilization.

Puerto Rico’s legislature has approved several measures in recent years in favor of the gay community, including one that prohibits employment discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation, and another that extends a domestic violence law to gay couples.

Puerto Rico judge rules against marriage equality, appeal planned

An appeal is planned after a federal court judge rejected an attempt to end a ban on same-sex marriages in Puerto Rico.

U.S. District Court Judge Juan Perez-Gimenez said political order depends on traditional marriage and derided the logic of courts that have overturned such bans.

“Because no right to same-gender marriage emanates from the Constitution, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico should not be compelled to recognize such unions,” he wrote in the 21-page ruling. “Instead, Puerto Rico, acting through its legislature, remains free to shape its own marriage policy.”

The five same-sex couples who sued to overturn Puerto Rico’s ban will appeal, according to their legal representation. The couples had challenged the constitutionality of several local laws, including a 1902 code that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Lambda Legal is representing the couples — two who seek to marry in Puerto Rico and three who live on the island and married elsewhere.

“We were obviously surprised by the decision,” Lambda Legal attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan said by phone. “Close to 50 court decisions have disagreed with that assessment, including four circuit courts of appeals.” He said they would file an appeal within days.

More than 30 states have recognized same-sex marriages, many after an Oct. 6 U.S. Supreme Court decision that refused to hear appeals from states seeking to defend gay marriage bans.

Puerto Rico is the only jurisdiction under the First Circuit Court of Appeals that bans same-sex marriages, Gonzalez-Pagan said.

Perez-Gimenez questioned the actions of more than two dozen judges on the U.S. mainland who have struck down state same-sex marriage bans following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as U.S. vs. Windsor. That ruling struck down a federal provision that denied several tax, health and veterans benefits to legally married gay couples, though it did not declare gay marriage legal nationwide.

Perez-Gimenez said the Windsor case only serves to reaffirm states’ authority over marriage.

“Windsor does not — cannot — change things,” he wrote. “It takes inexplicable contortions of the mind or perhaps even willful ignorance … to interpret Windsor’s endorsement of the state control of marriage as eliminating the state control of marriage.”

Perez-Gimenez wondered in his ruling whether laws prohibiting polygamy and incestuous relations will be questioned now, saying that traditional marriage is essential to society itself.

“Ultimately the very survival of the political order depends upon the procreative potential embodied in traditional marriage,” he said. “Those are the well-tested, well-proven principles on which we have relied for centuries.”

The legal fight in Puerto Rico began in March, when attorney Ada Conde, 53, who married her longtime partner in Massachusetts, filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have their marriage recognized in the U.S. territory, where lawmakers last year approved four measures in favor of the gay community, including one that extends a domestic violence law to gay couples. However, the push for same-sex marriages and recognition of those marriages has met strong resistance.

Johanne Velez, a 49-year-old attorney who is one of the plaintiffs, told The Associated Press in an interview that she and her partner, whom she married in New York in 2012, are seeking equal rights. They want to adopt, but Velez said she has been forced to initiate the process by herself because Puerto Rico does not allow unmarried couples to adopt. She said she was disillusioned by the ruling.

“The judge adopted an extremely traditional and somewhat sexist perspective about a woman’s role in society,” she said.

Civil rights group seeks end to ban on gay marriage in Puerto Rico

Lambda Legal, an LGBT legal defense group, is asking a U.S. District judge for summary judgment and an end to Puerto Rico’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The motion by Lambda was filed earlier this week on behalf of five gay and lesbian couples and a nonprofit LGBT civil rights group on the island.

“All families deserve to have their love and commitment recognized in Puerto Rico; they need the protections only marriage can provide as soon as possible, without discrimination,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, staff attorney for Lambda. “Every day that passes, our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender family members are told they are inferior to our other family members. They are living, working and caring for each other now and need the dignity and respect of marriage.”

In March, a lawsuit was filed in federal court seeking to compel the government of Puerto Rico to recognize the marriage of Ada Mercedes Conde Vidal and Ivonne Álvarez Vélez, who wed in Massachusetts.

Lambda joined in the lawsuit in June, bringing four more couples to the court as plaintiffs. Two of the couples want Puerto Rico to recognize their marriages and two want to marry in Puerto Rico.

The commonwealth responded with a motion seeking a dismissal of the case.

And then Lambda filed a motion asking the court for summary judgment. Lambda and the same-sex couples maintain that Puerto Rico’s marriage ban discriminates against same-sex couples and sends “a purposeful message that LGBT people and their children are second-class, undeserving of the legal protections, respect, and support that different-sex couples and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.”

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