Puerto Ricans Rally in San Juan
Data Lounge, June 4, 2003
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—A crowd of
thousands marched through the streets of San Juan on Sunday calling for the
immediate repeal of anti-gay sodomy laws and for the passage of expanded gay
protections against violence and discrimination.
Organizers of Puerto Rico’s annual gay pride protest
and celebration said they hope to convince the U.S. territory’s legislature
to do away with a law currently on the books that makes gay sex a crime.
“We’re asking for the immediate repeal of the sodomy
law, which violates our constitutional rights,” said organizer Olga Orraca.
“We demand our rightful place in society.”
Article 103 of the Puerto Rican penal code makes
consensual sex between two adult males punishable by up to 12 years in prison.
A Senate commission is reviewing recommendations for changes, but so far they
include only reducing the maximum sentence to three years. It’s been several
decades since anyone was prosecuted under the 1902 law, but the commission has
said it wants to allow the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve constitutional
questions surrounding the challenge of a similar sodomy law in Texas before
delving any further.
Sunday’s march was staged just one week after the
island’s Supreme Court published a ruling that homosexuals abused by
partners are not entitled to protection under a domestic violence law. The 4-3
decision to exclude gay couples heightened a long-standing debate about gay
rights on the Caribbean island.
“There is a phenomenon of domestic violence in gay and
lesbian couples,” said women’s rights activist Ana Rivera Lassen, calling
it a “second closet.” She said the ruling will only reinforce fears of
discussing abuse openly.
Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court said the legislative record
“shows clearly that the original focus of this legislation is the protection
of the abused woman” in a heterosexual couple. Three dissenting judges wrote
that their colleagues were missing a “historic opportunity.”
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