Puerto Rico Case Advances
American Civil Liberties Union, March 9,
Activists and the ACLU score the 1st victory in their fight to bring down the
islands sodomy law, with a judge rejecting the governments motion to dismiss.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has announced that its challenge to Puerto
Ricos "crimes against nature" law is moving into the fact-finding stage,
since a Superior Court judge on March 5 rejected the Secretary of Justices motion to
dismiss the case. The law provides for a felony charge against anyone who "has sexual
intercourse with people of the same sex or commits the crime against nature with a human
being," with penalties of up to10 years in prison. The plaintiffs in the case are
five gay and lesbian Puerto Ricans and, since the law also applies to heterosexuals, the
ACLU itself on behalf of its heterosexual members.
The ACLU national Lesbian and Gay Rights Projects associate director, Michael
Adams, described the motion to dismiss as suggesting "that nobody is injured when the
government brands gay men and lesbians as criminals because of their intimate
relationships." But Judge Carmen Rita Velez Borras recognized that the existence of
the law, combined with threats of enforcement, have a "chilling effect" on
sexual expression and relationships.
Lead plaintiff Reverend Margarita Sanchez said of the ruling, "This is a wonderful
day for me, my partner and for all other lesbians and gay men in Puerto Rico who have had
to live under the cloud of this law. The courts ruling is the first step toward
legal recognition of the fact that our lives and our relationships deserve the same kind
of respect and protection as anybody elses."
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