Metro Weekly

Federal judge dismisses challenge to Puerto Rico same-sex marriage ban

Puerto Rico deciison

A federal judge dismissed a case challenging Puerto Rico’s same-sex marriage ban Tuesday.

Citing a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Baker v. Nelson finding the high court lacked jurisdiction over a constitutional challenge to Minnesota’s marriage laws, U.S. District Court Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez wrote “the Court cannot see how any ‘doctrinal developments’ at the Supreme Court change the outcome of Baker or permit a lower court to ignore it.”

According to Pérez-Giménez, it is up to the people and their representatives to debate “redefining marriage” and not judges.

Baker, which necessarily decided that a state law defining marriage as a union between a man and woman does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment, remains good law,” he wrote. “Because no right to same-gender marriage emanates from the Constitution, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico should not be compelled to recognize such unions. Instead, Puerto Rico, acting through its legislature, remains free to shape its own marriage policy. In a system of limited constitutional self-government such as ours, this is the prudent outcome.”

Although a number of federal judges have cited the Supreme Court’s sweeping decision in the Windsor case, striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, in rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans since June 2013, Pérez-Giménez pushed back against those developments.

Windsor does not – cannot – change things,” he wrote. “The Windsor opinion did not create a fundamental right to same- gender marriage nor did it establish that state opposite-gender marriage regulations are amenable to federal constitutional challenges.”

Moreover, decisions striking down same-sex marriage bans “seem to suffer from a peculiar inability to recall the principles embodied in existing marriage law,” he wrote. 

The ruling is expected to appealed to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Puerto Rico. Every state in the 1st Circuit — Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island — has marriage equality. 

Puerto Rico Same-Sex Marriage Decision

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Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's former political editor and White House correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @JustinCSnow.

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