SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s Justice Department announced Friday that it will not defend the U.S. territory’s laws banning same-sex marriage, a major turnaround for the socially conservative island that surprised many.
Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda said that the government can no longer continue to discriminate against the gay community.
“It’s neither fair nor correct to defend the constitutionality of that law,” he said. “Same-sex couples cannot get married and therefore do not have access to those rights. They should be available to all those who love each other, who take care of each other, who work and contribute to this society like everyone else.”
The announcement comes a year after several gay couples in Puerto Rico filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Puerto Rican laws that define marriage as between a man and a woman, as well as those that prohibit same-sex marriage and the recognition of such marriages.
Article continues belowThe territory’s Justice Department had defended the laws before a federal judge who upheld them, but the case has been appealed to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, and Miranda said the department will no longer intervene.
Hundreds celebrated the news in Puerto Rico, including Johanne Velez, an attorney and consultant who married her partner in New York in 2012 and is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
“It is a historic day, and we are ecstatic,” she said in a phone interview. “When we say it is historic, we are changing the lives of people not just for us, but around us. We hope that it will make society a better place for future generations.”