Puerto Rico will no longer uphold its defense of marriage law which only permits heterosexual couples to marry and will not recognize same-gender marriages from other jurisdictions. But the archbishop of San Juan was not happy with the decision and has called on the island’s government to hold a referendum on same-sex unions
According to Latino. FoxNews.com, Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves responded strongly to the decision by Justice Secretary César Miranda, stating:
“We urge our people to launch a process so that a decision of such historical magnitude and significance can be decided through a referendum in which (voters) can express themselves. If not, this would be a dictatorial imposition by the government.”
Gonzalez Nieves called the decision “”very regrettable and disconcerting.”
Miranda, on the other hand, views the decision as a victory for human rights. According to a Reuters article, the Justice Secretary said:
“The decision recognizes that all human beings are equal before the law. We believe in an equal society in which everyone enjoys the same rights.”
Miranda’s decision was announced just before the deadline for the Puerto Rican government to respond to a Court of Appeals case, being heard in Boston, in which five same-sex couples were challenging the prohibitive law. The jurisdiction of the Boston court also includes five states where same-sex marriage is legal.
Other prominent Puerto Ricans applauded the government’s decision, including openly gay singer Ricky Martin, who stated, in Spanish, on social media:
“My thanks to Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla for demonstrating that he is a leader who is not afraid of the challenges of the present. His support for the determination of the Boston Court on marriage equality does justice to equality. My appreciation to Senators and Representatives and my sisters and brothers who joined this struggle for equality and human rights.”
“Today is a great day for my island, my heart beats fast in my chest. How proud I am to live in a country of equality. I love you Puerto Rico.”
In a statement quoted by Reuters, Governor Padilla pointed to the changing attitudes in the United States, of which Puerto Rico is a territory, stating that there was an
“undeniable consensus that does not allow discriminatory distinctions as that contained in our Civil Code with respect to the rights of same sex couples.”
Padilla, a 43-year old practicing Catholic, who in the past had supported the law, added:
“Everyone knows my religious beliefs but political leaders should not impose their beliefs.”
Though not a state, Puerto Rico has enormous cultural exchange with the United States. It will be interesting to see if this Latin island nation, where 56% of the population is Roman Catholic, will follow the tide of growing acceptance of same-sex marriage both in the U.S. and Latin America.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry