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Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Supreme Court upholds ban on gay couple adoptions

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court narrowly voted Wednesday to uphold a law banning gay couples from adopting children.

The 5-4 vote came in the case of an unidentified woman who has sought for the last eight years to adopt a 12-year-old girl who her partner of more than 20 years had through in vitro fertilization. It was the first time that the court heard a case on same-sex adoptions.

Photo: Nicholas Laughlin

A majority of judges upheld the constitutionality of a law that states a person cannot adopt a single-parent child if the would-be adopter is of the same sex as the child’s mother or father without that parent losing their legal rights.

The judges also said a family composed of a mother and father is best for a child’s dignity, stability and well-being.

“The state … has not criminalized their sentimental relationship, but it does not have a constitutional obligation to award this relationship the same rights that other relationsh ips have when it comes to adoption procedures,” the majority’s opinion said.

The majority also found that so-called second-parent adoptions, in which couples jointly adopt children, do not apply in Puerto Rico. That issue affects the case in question in part, the majority said, because the girl would have to be registered with two mothers and the U.S. territory’s laws do not address such a situation.

The judges said it is up to legislators to change adoption laws if they see fit.

“Starting today, the applicant should channel her efforts through the Legislative Assembly,” the majority wrote, noting that courts in Nebraska, Ohio, Wisconsin and Connecticut have struck down similar cases.

CABE, an umbrella group that represents more than a dozen local human rights organizations, said the opinion shows the legal and social vulnerabilities of the island’s gay and lesbian community.

“This opinion saddens us because we know that today they have emotiona lly destroyed a Puerto Rican family and left it without legal protections,” said spokesman Osvaldo Burgos.

Chief Justice Federico Hernandez Denton dissented from the ruling, calling the law unconstitutional and saying the plaintiff’s lawyers proved the proposed adoption would benefit the child. The girl, he noted, “proudly states: ‘I have two mothers.’”

The chief justice criticized the judges who upheld the law, saying they interpreted Puerto Rico’s constitution in the context of the times in which it was adopted more than 60 years ago, “as if it were an ancient manuscript encapsulated in a crystal urn.”

Hernandez also noted that in 1976, Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court allowed a single woman to adopt the daughter of her ex-lover without him losing his biological rights.

“While the rest of the world keeps opening its doors to the legitimate complaints of human beings discriminated against for their sexual orientation, the majority of this court refuses to declare the law in question as unconstitutional,” he said.

The court’s opinion comes as Puerto Rican legislators prepare to debate several bills that would extend more rights to gays and lesbians, setting off a heat ed debate in recent weeks.

On Monday, tens of thousands of people of different religious backgrounds marched to the island’s seaside capitol to defend the traditional views of marriage and family involving a mother and a father. Several legislators joined the march, with protesters carrying signs that read, “Puerto Rico belongs to Jesus” and “Puerto Rico Stands Up in Defense of Family.”

Human rights activists criticized Wednesday’s court ruling. Among the critics was Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin, who tweeted his displeasure: “How sad. I see this as turning your back on childhood. So many orphans wanting the warmth of 1home.”

William Ramirez, director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Puerto Rico, said he didn’t think the court’s opinion would set a strict precedent for future cases involving same-sex adoptions.

“We have a court that is pretty much divided on the issue,” Ramirez said. “With a new set of facts in a future case, there’s room to believe this could change.”

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18 more reader comments:

  1. Shame!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:29pm
  2. Then Stop Visiting Puerto Rico. Don’t spend your money their. Simple

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:32pm
  3. This is the most hateful day for all of the LGBT people here in PR

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:32pm
  4. Sic…time to let them go…no more aid or support.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:33pm
  5. “Puerto Rico, you ugly island. Always the hurricanes blowing. Always the population growing. And the babies crying.” a quote from “America” in “West Side Story” that seemed particularly appropriate given this idiotic decision.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:33pm
  6. Pity. Seemed like a nice place. Well, hope they don’t get that statehood after all.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:35pm
  7. Oh look, another bunch of slaves to the RCC. How many of your kids are raped by your overlords?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:38pm
  8. Just one more reason not to visit that POS island and spend my gay dollars.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:39pm
  9. It’s okay, we didn’t want you to be a state anyway.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:44pm
  10. Disgusting and ignorant.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:44pm
  11. SAD day for PR :-(

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:49pm
  12. The HATERS win again in P.R., for now, but our EQUAL RIGHTS are coming sooner and quicker than those INTOLERANT, BIGOTED HOMOPHOBES think!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:53pm
  13. I agree, boycott!!!! Shame on Puerto Rico

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:57pm
  14. I would love to hear the rationale for that decision….haven’t had a good laugh yet today!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:57pm
  15. We want them to become a state…because we can do away with their joke of a court in the process. You understand of course this was done by conservatives to keep the people of Puerto Rico in chains, right? Oppression in all forms is about MONEY and POWER. Scapegoating gays is easy and it tells people…LOOK WHAT WE CAN DO WITH OUR POWER. It’s about posture, like a chest thumping GORILLA.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 1:52pm
  16. The entire island of Puerto Rico should be ashamed!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 2:21pm
  17. Hopefully in time they will become more accepting to gay couples to allow them to adopt

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 2:22pm
  18. a family is made of hearts, not parts. banning adoption, just because someone is gay, is ridiculous. A kid could be in a loving, safe environment…instead of in foster care or elsewhere.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 2:45pm