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Posts for October, 2014

Federal Court Uphold’s Puerto Rico’s Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

Jim Burroway

October 21st, 2014

Federal District Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez has dismissed a lawsuit challenging Puerto Rico’s civil code which limits marriage to opposite-sex couples.Pérez-Giménez, a Carter appointee, dismissed the lawsuit “with prejudice,” meaning that the plaintiffs may not refile the case. He pointed to Baker v. Nelson as “a decision that directly binds this Court”:

The plaintiffs have brought this challenge alleging a violation of the federal constitution, so the first place to begin is with the text of the Constitution. The text of the Constitution, however, does not directly guarantee a right to same-gender marriage, for “when the Constitution was adopted the common understanding was that the domestic relations of husband and wife and parent and child were matters reserved to the States.” See Windsor, 133 S.Ct. at 2691—92, (citing Ohio ex rel. Popovici v. Agler, 280 U.S. 379, 383-384 (1930)).

Without the direct guidance of the Constitution, the next source of authority is relevant Supreme Court precedent interpreting the Constitution. On the question of same-gender marriage, the Supreme Court has issued a decision that directly binds this Court. The petitioners in Baker v. Nelson were two men who had been denied a license to marry each other. They argued that Minnesota’s statutory definition of marriage as an opposite-gender relationship violated due process and equal protection – just as the plaintiffs argue here. The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected the petitioners’ claim, determining that the right to marry without regard to gender was not a fundamental right and that it was neither irrational nor invidious discrimination to define marriage as requiring an opposite-gender union. …The Supreme Court considered both claims and unanimously dismissed the petitioners’ appeal “for want of [a] substantial federal question.”

It’s rather astonishing to see Judge Pérez-Giménez cite Windsor as arguing that the Federal Constitution is silent on the rights of same-sex couples when that very decision swept away Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act on due process and equal protection grounds. One wonders whether Pérez-Giménez actually bothered to read through all of Windsor when he wrote this rather cranky paragraph:

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. If anything, Windsor stands for the opposite proposition: it reaffirms the States’ authority over marriage, buttressing Baker’s conclusion that marriage is simply not a federal question. … Contrary to the plaintiffs’ contention, Windsor does not overturn Baker; rather, Windsor and Baker work in tandem to emphasize the States’ “historic and essential authority to define the marital relation” free from “federal intrusion.” Windsor, 133 S.Ct. at 2692. It takes inexplicable contortions of the mind or perhaps even willful ignorance – this Court does not venture an answer here – to interpret Windsor’s endorsement of the state control of marriage as eliminating the state control of marriage.

He also lashed out at the dozens of other courts which struck down elsewhere in a conclusion that could have easily been written by the Family “Research” Council:

Recent affirmances of same-gender marriage seem to suffer from a peculiar inability to recall the principles embodied in existing marriage law. Traditional marriage is “exclusively [an] opposite-sex institution … inextricably linked to procreation and biological kinship,” Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2718 (Alito, J., dissenting). 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.

Those are the well-tested, well-proven principles on which we have relied for centuries. The question now is whether judicial “wisdom” may contrive methods by which those solid principles can be circumvented or even discarded.

A clear majority of courts have struck down statutes that affirm opposite-gender marriage only. In their ingenuity and imagination they have constructed a seemingly comprehensive legal structure for this new form of marriage. And yet what is lacking and unaccounted for remains: are laws barring polygamy, or, say the marriage of fathers and daughters, now of doubtful validity? Is “minimal marriage”, where “individuals can have legal marital relationships with more than one person, reciprocally or asymmetrically, themselves determining the sex and number of parties” the blueprint for their design? …

Of course, it is all too easy to dismiss such concerns as absurd or of a kind with the cruel discrimination and ridicule that has been shown toward people attracted to members of their own sex. But the truth concealed in these concerns goes to the heart of our system of limited, consent-based government: those seeking sweeping change must render reasons justifying the change and articulate the principles that they claim will limit this newly fashioned right.

Lambda Legal has already announced that they will appeal the decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. All of the states in the First Circuit (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island) already have marriage equality, either through the ballot box, legislative action, or state court rulings.

Puerto Rico’s lesson in bogus election results

Timothy Kincaid

November 12th, 2012

One of the interesting results of last weeks elections that I heard mostly secondarily was that Puerto Rico had voted to support a move to statehood.

Now, I would like to see Puerto Rico resolve it’s status and I think that statehood is one possibility. It would be difficult for both Puerto Ricans and non-Puerto Ricans for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that this is a nation with a distinct ethnic identity and different language, but it could be accomplished. We have managed the inclusion of a Polynesian kingdom, a religious homeland, a couple republics, and a sparsely populated block of ice; so I’m certain we could find a way to incorporate an island nation in the Caribbean.

I suspect this move would likely skew polling on gay equality negatively and would increase religious adherence statistics. But it would definitely benefit gay Puerto Ricans. And, as a bonus, it would resolve Anita and Rosalia’s musical debate.

But I have long become accustomed to Puerto Rico voting on their future without any clear consensus as to which direction to move in, and I was surprised to hear that over 60% voted for statehood.

And it turns out that they didn’t.

Instead they participated in a political game, an exercise in silliness designed to give advocates of statehood a talking point that had no reflection on reality. (ABC)

The territory question had two parts. The first part asked voters if they favored their current status as a U.S. territory. About 54 percent of voters said no, that they were not happy with the status quo.

From there, everyone could answer a second question that gave three options: statehood, sovereign free association or independence. Sovereign free association is not the same as the current status.

Only about 1.3 million voters answered the second question. Of those, 61 percent chose statehood, 33 percent chose the semi-autonomous choice and 6 percent chose independence, according to the AP. Nearly 500,000 people left the question blank. The population of Puerto Rico is nearly 4 million people.

To give some (very round and extrapolated) numbers:

Roughly 1,800,000 people voted. About 828,000 people like it the way it is. Of those, about 500,000 didn’t answer the second question. Some 328,000 did, listing their second choice.

Around 793,000 chose statehood as either their first or second choice. This is less than half of those voting on the issue of status.

In other words, about 44% of voters selected statehood as their first or second choice, 28% selected some other option as their first or second choice, and 28% selected the status quo as their only choice.

Ultimately the powers that be will decide what they want to do and use whatever means they choose to justify it. But when they tell you that the Puerto Rican people voted by two-thirds in favor of statehood, you can know that you are being snowed.

Anti-Gay Pol Resigns Over “Losing Weight”

Jim Burroway

August 29th, 2011

Weight watcher

Puerto Rican Senator Roberto Arango resigned this weekend after nude photos of him were found on the gay smartphone hook-up app Grindr. Arango had voted for Resolution 99, which would have blocked same-sex marriages, and he helped to block a measure banning discrimination and allowing for adoption rights for gays. In 2004. Arango served as the committee chairman for Puerto Rico for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, and played leadership roles for the Republican Party in Puerto Rico. Arango neither confirmed nor denied the photos were his, but said that he had taken a few photos of himself because he had been “losing weight.”

Anti-Gay Puerto Rican Legislator Caught On Grindr

Jim Burroway

August 26th, 2011

If he quacks like a duck...

Puerto Rico Senator Roberto Arango was spotted posting photos (NSFW) on the gay hook-up smartphone app Grindr. What makes this noteworthy is the anti-gay positions he’s taken over the years. According to a tip at Joe.My.God:

In 2009 he voted in favor of Resolution 99 which would have amended Puerto Rico’s constitution to ban the recognition of same-sex marriages (it didn’t pass). He has been opposed to civil union bills and in 2004 he used a rubber duck and made it quack to make fun of an opponent (in Puerto Rico, the word for duck, “pato”, means faggot.)

Arango was identified partly by the pendant that he was wearing while taking the photo. Another photo allegedly downloaded from Grindr has him wearing a shirt and showing his face. And then, of course, there’s this one (NSFW). The photos were aired last Friday on the Puerto Rican TV show Dando Candela.

Arango, who served as Puerto Rico chair for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in 2004, neither confirmed nor denied taking the photograph. He told Dando Candela:

You know I’ve been losing weight. As I shed that weight, I’ve been taking pictures. I don’t remember taking this particular picture but I’m not gonna say I didn’t take it. I’d tell you if I remembered taking the picture but I don’t.

Is “losing weight” destined to become another euphemism?

Puerto Rico Police Arrest Suspect In Gruesome Murder

Jim Burroway

November 17th, 2009
Jorge Steven López

Jorge Steven López

Last last week, the brutally butchered body of nineteen-year-old Jorge Steven López was found by the side of a road near Cayey, Puerto Rico, just a few miles from his home in Caguas. Police have now arrested a suspect in the case.

On Nov 13, López’s body was found partially burned, decapitated, and dismembered. According to reports, both arms and both legs were cut from his torso. The gruesome murder sent shock waves throughout Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican community in New York.

Initial reports held out little hope that a proper investigation would be conducted. One investigator, Ángel Rodríguez Colón, told a Univision reporter, “Este tipo de personas cuando se meten a esto y salen a la calle saben que esto les puede pasar. (This type of person, when he does things like this and go out on the street knows that this can happen to him.)” Puerto Rican LGBT activist Pedro Julio Serrano denounced the investigator and called for disciplinary action.

Early today, police arrested a twenty-sixeight year old male in connection with the case and seized two vehicles as evidence. So far, his name has not been released. (See update below.) Primera Hora reportsthat the man came under suspicion after police question López’s friends in Caguas, who reported that the suspect offered López money in exchange for sex.

Regional police director Hector Agosto saidthat police are investigation whether López’s murder was motivated by anti-gay hatred. “This was a ruthless crime,” said Agosto. “Whoever did this just wanted to make the person disappear.” But he cautioned that the investigation has just begun and police were investigating several possible motives.

LGBT advocates have urged officials to investigate under the recently passed U.S. federal statues protecting LGBT people against hate crimes. Harry Rodriguez of the FBI said they are monitoring the case and will provide any assistance needed in accordance with the hate crimes statute.

Update: Local media are now identifying the suspect as 26-year-old Juan Antonio Martínez Matos, who is running the gay/trans panic defense. Martínez is reported to claim that he was in the area looking to pick up a woman. He first thought López was a women but discovered that he was a man. He also claimed that López demanded money. Police investigators found a wig, a burned mattress, burned PVC pipe, a knife and blood stains on the wall of the courtyard of the suspect’s apartment.  Investigator José J. Bermúdez is quoted as saying that he has no doubt that López’s murder can be prosecuted as a hate crime.