Federal Court Overturns Ruling Upholding Natural Marriage in Puerto Rico, Orders Judge off Case*
By Fr. Mark Hodges
A federal appeals court overturned a district judge’s ruling on Thursday, and declared that same-sex “marriage” in Puerto Rico is constitutional.
In 1999, Governor Pedro Rosselló signed into law a bill defining marriage as “a civil contract whereby a man and a woman mutually agree to become husband and wife.” Attempts failed, however, in 2008 and 2009 to put the definition of marriage in Puerto Rico’s Constitution as a union between a man and a woman, and to outright ban same-sex “marriages.”
A groundswell of popular support for natural marriage culminated in between 120,000 and 200,000 people demonstrating at the San Juan’s Capitol Building in February 2013.
In March 2014, a lesbian couple from Massachusetts filed a legal complaint, seeking recognition of their “marriage,” which was solemnized in the states.
U.S. District Court Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez ruled against the lesbians and upheld Puerto Rico law in October 2014. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision that constitutionalized homosexual “marriage,” the First Circuit Court of Appeals told the judge to “further consider” his ruling “in light of Obergefell.”
The First Circuit judges wrote that they “agree with the parties…that the ban is unconstitutional.”
Nevertheless, Judge Pérez-Giménez upheld Puerto Rico’s homosexual “marriage” ban again this past March, reasoning that the Obergefell decision does not necessarily apply to an unincorporated territory. “The constant reference made to the ‘States’ in Obergefell,” the district judge reasoned, does not include “the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.” “The Constitution applies in full in incorporated Territories surely destined for statehood, but only in part in unincorporated Territories,” the judge explained.
The First Circuit Court of Appeals has now not only overruled Judge Pérez-Giménez, but has taken him off the case entirely, saying that he “directly contradicted our mandate.”
In their unsigned ruling, the appeals court, including Juan Torruella, Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson, and William Joseph Kayatta Jr., ordered that the case “be assigned randomly by the clerk to a different judge to enter judgment in favour of the Petitioners promptly.”