A federal judge on Tuesday upheld [opinion, PDF] Puerto Rico’s same-sex marriage ban. US District Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez for the US District Court for the District of Puerto Rico [official website] ruled that last year’s landmark Supreme Court [official website] decision on marriage rights does not necessarily apply to Puerto Rico. The Supreme Court’s ruling [JURIST report] in Obergefell v. Hodges [opinion, PDF] last June required all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. However, Pérez-Giménez ruled [NBC News report] that Puerto Rico’s status as an “unincorporated territory” means that Puerto Rico “is not treated as the functional equivalent of a State for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment” and as such the US Constitution applies only in part to a territory like Puerto Rico. The judge had upheld [JURIST report] the ban on same-sex marriage in October 2014 but was asked to reexamine the issue in light of Obergefell.
Same-sex marriage and adoption rights remain in a state of legal uncertainty despite the Supreme Court’s ruling. Last week the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed petitions [JURIST report] that sought a ruling declaring the state’s prohibition on same-sex marriage valid. In February a federal judge ruled that Kentucky clerk Kim Davis is obeying orders [JURIST report] to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis had refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex or heterosexual couples arguing that her Christian faith should exempt her from issuing the licenses to same-sex couples. A federal judge held Davis in contempt of court [JURIST report] in September for her continued refusal, releasing her after several days in jail. Davis claimed upon returning to work that she would not block her clerks from issuing the licenses.