( New York, NY, March 16, 2015 ) - After news outlets reported that the Puerto Rican government is considering withdrawing its support for the law banning marriage for same-sex couples, Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Lambda Legal Staff Attorney issued the following statement:
"We are encouraged that the government is reconsidering its defense of its discriminatory ban on the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. Government should never be in the business of discrimination. We look forward to what the government will say in its response to our appeal, which is due at the First Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, and hope Puerto Rico will join the several other state officials over the past year who have also ceased defense of marriage bans in similar cases.
"We have always maintained that the ban is unconstitutional and we are eager for a court to vindicate the rights of our plaintiff couples."
The change comes just before the deadline for the defendants' response brief, due Friday, in the appeal process of a federal case in which Lambda Legal represents four same-sex couples, seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples there and to compel the Commonwealth to recognize the legal marriages of LGBT people entered into in other jurisdictions.
Lambda Legal joined the lawsuit Conde Vidal v. Rius Armendariz in June 2014, challenging Puerto Rico's marriage ban as a violation of the equal protection and due process guarantees of the U.S. Constitution. Representing four of the plaintiff couples, as well as the Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy organization Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, Lambda Legal is arguing that existing legislation in the Commonwealth sends the message that LGBT people and their children are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections, and support that different-sex couples and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.
The plaintiffs include: Ada Conde Vidal, 53, and Ivonne Ãlvarez Vélez, 67, together for 14 years; Iris Delia Rivera Rivera, 56, and Maritza LÃ"pez Aviles, 58, together for 38 years; José A. Torruellas Iglesias, 57, and Thomas J. Robinson, 56, together for 13 years; Zulma Oliveras Vega, 43, and Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro, 43, together for six years; and Johanne Vélez GarcÃa, 49, and Faviola Meléndez RodrÃguez, 37, also together for six years.
Lambda Legal attorneys Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Hayley Gorenberg, Karen Loewy, and Jael Humphrey are handling the case, and are joined by co-counsel Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, and Celina Romany, Esq.
Those with questions or concerns about discrimination or denial of a protection to which they are entitled should contact Lambda Legal's Help Desk at 1-866-542-8336 or visit http://www.lambdalegal.org/help.
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.