Gay Marriage Set to Arrive on Puerto Rican Shores

By: Belén Marty - @belenmarty - Apr 9, 2015, 11:14 am

EspañolCan same-sex couples get married in Puerto Rico? San Juan Judge Ángel R. Pagán Ocasio will make a monumental ruling today for the US territory, one way or the other.

Pagán Ocasio is handling a legal recourse presented by seven legislators from the New Progressive Party (PNP), who have requested that Article 68 of the Commonwealth’s Civil Code be upheld, restricting marriage to a man and a woman.

The weight of legal pressure appears to be against the legislators, though. Their case comes after Puerto Rico’s secretary of justice, César Miranda, declared on March 20 that the island’s government would not defend the constitutionality of Article 68: “because laws defending marriage must respect the constitutional rights of all citizens.”

LGBT organizations in Puerto Rico have been fighting for the right to marry for years.
LGBT organizations in Puerto Rico have been fighting for the right to marry for years. (PanAm Post)

The Puerto Rican government backed down from the code after five homosexual couples filed suit to repeal Article 68 and force Puerto Rico to recognize same-sex marriages from other US states.

Miranda, who called it an “historic” moment for Puerto Ricans, cleared the way for the legal action: “we have concluded that, on the face of today’s rule of law, it is not justified nor correct to defend the constitutionality of Article 68 of Puerto Rico’s Civil Code that states marriage will be only between a man and a woman.”

What about Separation of Powers?

Representing the legislators opposed to the abolition of Article 68, Johnny Méndez claims his request to Judge Pagán Ocasio is based on the respect of the separation of powers, since the controversial article remains in effect.

“What we want is a discussion and that governor [Alejandro García Padilla] be ordered to fulfill [his] constitutional duty to defend the Civil Code. That’s all,” Méndez said. “We’re not touching the controversy over whether marriage should be between X or Y, but that one cannot rule by decree. We live under a democratic system, not under a totalitarian government.”

For the PNP legislators, the Puerto Rican government’s decision not to defend Article 68 would be a violation of the governor’s oath to uphold the laws of the land.

Catholic Church: Let’s Have a Referendum

Religious groups have carried out several demonstrations to protest the potential modification of the Civil Code. In particular, San Juan’s Catholic archbishop, Monseigneur Roberto González Nieves, has proposed that Puerto Ricans themselves decide on the matter through a referendum.

He said the initiative to legalize same-sex marriages was of “historic significance,” arguing that the public effect of calling marriage something it cannot be by nature trumps private decisions.

“It is unfortunate that the fundamental values and the future of our country have been betrayed like this,” lamented González, adding that “nature doesn’t change. One cannot demand equal treatment to something that is not equal by nature.”

Ricky Martin Enters the Fold

Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin has came out in favor of granting same-sex marriage licenses. “Equal marriage is a matter of rights,” he asserted, saying it’s “high time” that his island should set “a record of respecting equality.”

“I thank Governor Alejandro García Padilla for showing he’s a leader who doesn’t [shy away from the challenges of the present]…

Support has also come from the president of the Puerto Rican Senate, Eduardo Bhatia: “I’m certain where I have stood firmly for a while now: the Constitution of Puerto Rico recognizes that the law applies to everyone, and that we’re all equal before the law, and that means sexual orientation does not matter.”

In 2009, Puerto Rico went through an initial attempt to legalize same-sex marriages, but it was rejected by then-President of the Senate, Thomas Rivera Schatz. Then in February 2015, with a five-to-four vote, Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court reaffirmed the legality of Article 68.

Translated by Daniel Duarte. Edited by Fergus Hodgson.

Belén Marty Belén Marty

Belén Marty is the Libertarian Latina, a journalist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has lived in Guatemala, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States and is a former candidate for local office with Argentina's Libertarian Party. Follow @BelenMarty.

LatAm Congressmen Promise Maduro a Date at the Hague

By: Elisa Vásquez - @elisavasquez88 - Apr 9, 2015, 10:27 am

EspañolCongressmen from across Latin America agreed on Tuesday to bring a complaint at the International Court of Justice in the Hague against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, accusing him of crimes against humanity. The document was originally produced by regional forum Parliamentarians for Democracy a year ago, when congressmen from Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, and Nicaragua led the way in denouncing Venezuela — and even their own countries — for systematically violating international human-rights standards. The letter, which now enjoys the backing of 300 legislators from the length of Latin America, is likely to cause a stir when presented during the seventh Summit of the Americas, to be held on Friday and Saturday in Panama City. Peruvian Congresswoman Cecilia Chacón told a press conference that the group would present a report detailing "the actions and omissions" of Maduro with regard to violent anti-government protests on February 12, 2014. Also under the spotlight in the forthcoming document for their alleged role in the subsequent crackdown will be National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, former Interior and Justice Minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres, Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz, and former Public Ombudsman Gabriela Ramírez. The signatories of the letter, all members of the Association for Democracy in the Americas (ADA), will also supply the tribunal with lists of political prisoners, those who have reportedly been tortured, and those victims of other acts that could be attributed to decisions taken by senior Venezuelan officials. The elected representatives condemn in the letter the arrest of student demonstrators and that of opposition figures Leopoldo López, Daniel Ceballos, and Antonio Ledezma, and call on their fellow parliamentarians to debate the alleged privation of their liberties. They also backed a mission led by former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González to provide López with legal support from high-profile international figures. New OAS Rapporteur on the Cards On the request of Nicaraguan Congressman Enrique Sáenz, the group are also to work on a demand for the creation of a dedicated Organization of American States (OAS) Rapporteur for Democracy, which will be presented to the OAS during the Panama summit. The body would have the responsibility of monitoring the rule of law and the balance of powers in the region's countries, as well as the ability to apply the Inter-American Charter — a measure which can lead to the expulsion of OAS member states — which the group believes has lost its force and been largely ignored. Sáenz argued that Nicaragua, like Cuba and Venezuela, was suffering from a totalitarian government despite holding democratic elections, citing the erosion of independent public institutions. "The current government has exchanged elections for fraud, the armed forces for repression, and the Constitution and institutions for the wishes of the king," he said, in a veiled reference to President Daniel Ortega. Chacón meanwhile branded the OAS a "silent accomplice" to the failure of democracy in Venezuela, and called on incoming Secretary General Luis Almagro to fulfill his "responsibilities." "The OAS and the Union of South American Nations [UNASUR] have to halt the massacre in Venezuela. What happens there will affect events across America in the years to come," she argued. Panama's former ambassador to the OAS, Guillermo Cochez, similarly described the administration of former Secretary General José Miguel Insulza as "inefficient" for failing to resolve the political situation in Cuba and Venezuela. Ecuadorian Gambit Andrés Páez, a member of the Ecuadorian National Assembly for the Creating Opportunities (CREO) movement, meanwhile denounced the alleged designs of President Rafael Correa to make Constitutional Court President Patricio Pazmiño head of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The opposition accuses Pazmiño of serving the interests of the executive, and blame him for the approval of a Media Law which has allowed the Ecuadorian authorities to censor and impose fines on media outlets and journalists. Páez argued that Pazmiño's possible accession to the Court would damage the rights of citizens across the continent due to doubts over his impartiality. His complaint was anticipated in a March 27 article he wrote for El País, in which he accused the Ecuadorian government of bribing the Court with US$1 million, shortly after Pazmiño's candidacy was declared. The incumbent Court president, Humberto Sierra, rejected the allegations on March 31. Fighting Back against Populism On the instigation of former Venezuelan Congressman Pablo Medina, the legislators agreed to designate a date in 2015 for continent-wide protest against the expansion of dictatorships. The group are also to organize a system to dispatch monitoring missions to countries where human rights are violated in deed or in legislation. Current Caracas Mayor Helen Fernández additionally asked the representatives of other countries to bolster the belief of her nation's young people in democratic values. "The neglect of Venezuela's youth leaves them vulnerable to populism," she said. In response, the congressmen proposed a network of student exchanges from countries belonging to the ADA network, with the aim of spreading democratic ideas and faith in impartial institutions. After repeated power cuts in the venue where the forum was being held, in Panama's Hotel Continental, the power went out for the final hour of the meeting. Attendees complained that the lights went back on shortly after the event finished, and rumors of a possible sabotage attempt circulated. Translated by Laurie Blair.

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