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

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Puerto Rico [official website] on Tuesday dismissed [opinion, PDF] a lawsuit challenging Puerto Rico’s same-sex marriage ban. Puerto Rico Para Todos [advocacy website, in Spanish] brought the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs, five same-sex couples, arguing that Article 68 of Puerto Rico’s civil code, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment [text]. The court dismissed the lawsuit based on the rejection of same-sex marriage established in the 1972 US Supreme Court [official website] case, Baker v. Nelson [opinion, PDF]. The reasoning in Baker has been rejected by all other federal courts since last year’s US v. Windsor [JURIST report] ruling. Courts have found the Baker ruling to have been eroded by doctrinal changes. However, in his opinion, Judge Juan Perez-Gomez stated that the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] has explicitly acknowledged that Baker remains a binding precedent. In his opinion Perez-Gomez wrote:

Traditional marriage is “exclusively [an] opposite-sex institution … inextricably linked to procreation and biological kinship.” Traditional marriage is the fundamental unit of the political order. And ultimately the very survival of the political order depends upon the procreative potential embodied in traditional marriage.

The court’s decision has two important impacts. First, the First Circuit may now impact national same-sex marriage litigation. Second, courts will likely actively consider the issue of Baker‘s effect. The Fifth, Sixth and Eighth [official websites] circuit courts are already considering cases involving, in part, the issue of whether Baker controls.

Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] continues to be one of the most controversial legal issues in the US today, with numerous courts weighing in, particularly in the past month. Last week a federal judge overturned [JURIST report] Alaska’s same-sex marriage ban. Earlier this month the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] struck down same-sex marriage bans [JURIST report] in Idaho and Nevada. That ruling followed the US Supreme Court’s announcement earlier this month that it had denied seven pending appeals [JURIST report], effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin and Indiana. Also last week the Kansas Supreme Court [official website] temporarily halted [JURIST report] the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses until it hears oral arguments on the issue next month.