Columbia Law School Clinic Argues for Marriage Equality in Puerto Rico
New York, January 30, 2015—Puerto Rico’s marriage laws violate the constitutional rights of lesbians and gay men to marry the person of their choice and to have that marriage recognized, Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic argues in an amicus brief filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.
In the brief filed in Conde-Vidal v. Rius-Armendariz, Columbia Law School Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg argues that the U.S. Constitution’s due process and equal protection guarantees have long been understood to protect against government interference in fundamental personal decision making, including the choice of one’s spouse.
“The protection of individual decision-making in matters as personally important as marriage is reflected throughout the marriage laws of Puerto Rico,” writes Goldberg. “These laws impose few restrictions on adults’ choice of marital partners and on the recognition of valid marriages. Yet, by contrast, Puerto Rico imposes a singular, categorical, and constitutionally impermissible burden on lesbians and gay men who seek to exercise their fundamental right to marry their chosen partner and to have that marriage recognized.”
Goldberg’s clinic, founded in 2006, has filed amicus briefs in numerous cases challenging state bans on marriage rights for same-sex couples in the wake of the 2013 U.S. v. Windsor decision striking down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act barring recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages.
“Puerto Rico’s ban is not only unconstitutional but is also out of step with the increasingly widespread freedom to marry for same-sex couples,” said Goldberg. “The ban also causes direct and immediate harm to Puerto Rican families, who are treated as legal strangers in the eyes of the law.”
Columbia Law School students Abigail E. Marion ’16, Erica N. Navarro ’16, Olena Savytska ’15, Prateek Vasireddy ’15, Angelica M. Juarbe ’16, Jeremy R. Girton ’15, and Julia C. Maddera ’16 assisted with research for and preparation of the brief.