Lambda Legal Asks Court for Swift Ruling to End Discriminatory Marriage Ban in Puerto Rico

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September 15, 2014
Omar Gonzalez-Pagan
All families deserve to have their love and commitment recognized in Puerto Rico.

Today in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, Lambda Legal filed a motion for summary judgment seeking to end the discriminatory ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Lambda Legal joined the lawsuit, Conde v. García Padilla, in June 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.

“All families deserve to have their love and commitment recognized in Puerto Rico; they need the protections only marriage can provide as soon as possible, without discrimination,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. “Every day that passes, our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender family members are told they are inferior to our other family members. They are living, working and caring for each other now and need the dignity and respect of marriage.”

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. Lambda Legal joined the lawsuit on June 25, filing an amended complaint 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. Today’s filing also includes an opposition to the defendants’ motion to dismiss, which the Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Secretary of the Health Department, the Director of the Treasury and the Registrar of Vital Records filed on August 27, 2014.

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 many members throughout the Commonwealth. 

In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal the plaintiffs argue 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, undeserving of the legal protections, respect, and support that different-sex couples and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.

Lambda Legal attorneys Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Hayley Gorenberg, and Jael Humphrey are handling the case, joined by pro-bono 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 more about the case here:

Read more about our plaintiff couples and their children here:

Read the motion for summary judgement here: