New Judge Strikes Down Puerto Rico Marriage Ban Hours After Lambda Legal Victory
Just hours after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed for the second time that Puerto Rico’s ban on marriage for LGBT people is unconstitutional and ordered the case be reassigned to a new judge, District Court Judge Gustavo A. Gelpí issued a judgment striking down that ban. Judge Gelpí applied the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which granted the freedom to marry to all people in the United States, after instruction from the First Circuit making clear that the decision applies to territories as it does to states.
“We are pleased that the new District Court judge moved so quickly to heed the First Circuit’s instructions and strike the provisions of Puerto Rico law that purport to block recognition of the marriages of LGBT people,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, staff attorney for Lambda Legal. “Marriage equality is the law of the land in the states and territories alike. It is a judge’s duty to apply the law without bias or regard to their personal views. We are gratified that Judge Gelpí has swiftly and clearly affirmed that the fundamental right to marry applies to all persons in Puerto Rico, including LGBT people.”
Last month, Lambda Legal filed papers – known as a mandamus petition – requesting that the First Circuit reassign the case to a different judge in the District Court and enter a judgment in favor of equal marriage rights. The Puerto Rico government joined Lambda Legal’s petition, agreeing that the marriage ban is unconstitutional and should be struck down. Thursday, the First Circuit granted Lambda Legal’s petition and ordered that judgment be promptly entered in favor of the plaintiffs after reassignment to a different district court judge.
Previously, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that Puerto Rico’s law was unconstitutional, reversing an earlier Puerto Rico district court ruling. Puerto Rico then began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and Lambda Legal along with the government defendants asked the court to strike down all provisions of Puerto Rico law that ban full recognition of the marriage rights of LGBT people, as unconstitutional and no longer enforceable. In a defiant move last month, the District Court judge denied the motion. The First Circuit overruled that decision yesterday.
The case is Conde-Vidal, et al v. Rius-Armendariz, et al. Lambda Legal attorneys Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Hayley Gorenberg, and Karen Loewy are handling the case, joined by co-counsel Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, and Celina Romany-Siaca. Ada Conde-Vidal, who is represented by José L. Nieto, represents her wife.