Tuesday, Lambda Legal filed a notice of appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Conde-Vidal v. Garcia-Padilla, after the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico dismissed the lawsuit seeking to end the Commonwealth’s discriminatory ban on marriage for LGBT couples. The appeal comes just seven days after the court issued its dismissal.
“Puerto Rico has many loving, committed couples who need the dignity and respect of marriage as soon as possible, and we won’t stop fighting on their behalf. The district court’s ruling is not only out of step with the rest of the country, it leaves Puerto Rico as the only jurisdiction within the First Circuit to ban marriage for same-sex couples,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. “During the past year reasoned rulings by district courts throughout the nation and the Courts of Appeals for the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Circuits, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court’s actions to let stand some of those rulings, clearly demonstrate that marriage bans, such as Puerto Rico’s, are unconstitutional. The government should not be in the business of discriminating against its people. It is disappointing that Puerto Rico continues to perpetuate the harms it causes to loving, committed Puerto Rican same-sex couples.”
On March 25, 2014, Ada Mercedes Conde Vidal and Ivonne Álvarez Vélez filed a lawsuit to compel Puerto Rico to recognize their marriage, which they entered into in Massachusetts. In June, Lambda Legal joined and amended that lawsuit to include four more plaintiff couples, two seeking recognition of marriages entered into in other jurisdictions and two who seek to marry in Puerto Rico, as well as an organizational plaintiff, Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender people and their families. The District Court issued its ruling dismissing the case on October 21, 2014.
In addition to Vidal, 53, and Vélez, 67, of San Juan, who have been together for 14 years, were married in Massachusetts in 2004 and have one daughter, the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Iris Delia Rivera Rivera – a former member of the National Guard deployed in the first Gulf War – and Maritza López Avilés 58 of Toa Alta, together for 38 years and parents of one daughter; José A. Torruellas Iglesias and Thomas J. Robinson of San Juan, together for 13 years and married in Toronto in 2007; Zulma Oliveras Vega and Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro of Carolina, together for six years and parents of one daughter; and Johanne Vélez García and Faviola Meléndez Rodríguez of Guaynabo, together for six years and married in New York in 2012. The organizational plaintiff, Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, is a leading advocate for LGBT people and their families in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, with members throughout the Commonwealth.
Lambda Legal attorneys Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Hayley Gorenberg, Karen Loewy and Jael Humphrey are handling the case, joined by co-counsel Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, local counsel Celina Romany-Siaca and Ada Conde Vidal representing herself and her wife.