Lambda Legal Joins Lawsuit Seeking End to Discriminatory Marriage Ban in Puerto Rico

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June 25, 2014
Ada Mercedes Conde Vidal & Ivonne Álvarez

Today in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, Lambda Legal filed an amended complaint seeking to end the discriminatory limits on marriage in Puerto Rico. The new complaint was filed in Conde v. Rius Armendariz on behalf of five gay and lesbian couples and Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, an organization that represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their families.

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal, said:

The families of Puerto Rico need access to the protections of marriage, without discrimination. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are our brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends, coworkers and neighbors. Their families are worthy of the dignity and respect of marriage. As someone who was born and raised on the island, I know marriage is one of the most important ways Puerto Ricans show their love and commitment to each other and protect their lives as a family. LGBT couples across the Commonwealth need marriage as soon as possible.

On March 25th, 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. Today’s filing amends 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.

Meet the families fighting for marriage in Puerto Rico.

In addition to Ms. Conde Vidal (53) and Ms. Álvarez 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 (56) – 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 (57) and Thomas J. Robinson (56) of San Juan, together for 13 years and married in Toronto in 2007; Zulma Oliveras Vega (43) and Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro (43) of Carolina, together for six years and parents of one daughter; and Johanne Vélez García (49) and Faviola Meléndez Rodríguez (37) 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. 

Conde Vidal said:

We are a family: My spouse, Ivonne, our daughter Adita and me. Puerto Rico is our home, we are proud US Citizens and we are not second class citizens. We proclaim our love in marriage, our right for happiness in Puerto Rico.

In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal, joined by pro bono co-counsel from Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, the Law Offices of Celina Romany, and Ada Conde Vidal representing herself and her wife, argues that Puerto Rico’s marriage ban unfairly discriminates against LGBT couples and sends a purposeful message that LGBT people and their children are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal protections, respect, and support that different-sex couples and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder and director of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, said:

Puerto Rico is a loving, respectful, inclusive and sensible place. The majority of our people support marriage equality for LGBT couples because it's in tune with our values of respect, inclusion and equality. Our people already are on the right side of history, now it's the government's turn.

Lambda Legal attorneys Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Hayley Gorenberg, and Jael Humphrey are handling the case, joined by co-counsel Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, local counsel Celina Romany-Siaca of the Law Offices of Celina Romany, and Ada Conde Vidal representing herself and her wife. 

Read the press release.