Chronology of Sanchez v. Puerto Rico
ACLU Lesbian And Gay Rights
While attempting to testify before a committee of the Puerto Rico
legislature in opposition to anti-gay legislation, Rev. Margarita Sanchez is
asked by legislators about her sexual orientation. She is then accused of
engaging in criminal activity and threatened with arrest. [Puerto Ricos
sodomy law bans all same-sex intimacy, and certain intimacy between any
adults. Sodomy is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.]
Puerto Ricos Assistant Justice Secretary testifies before the same
legislative committee, raising the sodomy law and warning, "The law
exists, and as long as it exists and the police bring us sufficient evidence
to convict, we will prosecute this crime."
The American Civil Liberties Union files a lawsuit challenging Puerto Ricos
sodomy law on behalf of Sanchez and five other lesbian and gay plaintiffs, as
well as on behalf of the ACLUs straight and gay members in Puerto Rico. The
lawsuit charges that the law violates the equal protection and privacy rights
guaranteed by both the Puerto Rico and United States Constitutions.
Rejecting the governments contention that nobody is injured by the
sodomy law, a Superior Court Judge rules in favor of ACLU and orders that the
challenge to Puerto Ricos sodomy statute must go forward. The judges
ruling finds that the existence of the law, coupled with government threats to
enforce it, has a "chilling effect" on sexual expression and
In an unrelated case of domestic violence involving a gay male couple, an
appellate court rules that Puerto Ricos law on domestic violence does not
apply to lesbians and gay men, saying the sodomy law "makes homosexual
conduct a crime."
Dozens of people march through downtown San Juan, demanding the repeal of
the sodomy statute. The Puerto Rico Court of Appeals dismisses the ACLUs
challenge to the sodomy law, saying no citizens can show that they are
directly impacted by it.
After initially refusing to hear the case, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court
reconsiders and agrees to hear oral arguments for a still-unscheduled date
later in 2001. It marks the first time that a gay rights case will be heard by
Puerto Ricos highest court in its 101-year history.
Eric Ferrero, Public Education Director
The American Civil Liberties Union
Lesbian and Gay Rights Project/AIDS Project
125 Broad St., 18th Floor
New York, NY 10004-2400
Tel: 212-549-2568; Fax: 212-549-2650
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