Puerto Rican Public and Courts Weigh Gay Rights with Unprecedented Legal Case
and Political Action
ACLU Lesbian And Gay Rights
Project/AIDS Project, February 21, 2001
Contact: Eric Ferrero
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO Lesbian and gay rights are
taking center stage in Puerto Rico this week, as activities around the island
bring attention to Puerto Ricos anti-gay sodomy law, and the Supreme Court
of Puerto Rico prepares to hear arguments challenging the law the first
gay rights case of the highest courts 101-year history.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the legal challenge to
Puerto Ricos sodomy law, will lead a variety of public forums and events
with Puerto Rican gay activists starting today and lasting through the week.
This weeks events known in Puerto Rico as a "jornada"
cap months of political protests against the sodomy law, including group fasts
and weekly protests in front of the Supreme Court in San Juan. Public forums
will focus on the effects of Puerto Ricos sodomy law, progress in the legal
challenge and additional options for repealing the law. Attorneys from the
ACLUs New York-based Lesbian & Gay Rights Project will speak at several
gatherings with leading Puerto Rican gay rights activists and local ACLU
"This is an important week in Puerto Ricos history. For a long
time, gay issues have not been publicly discussed here," said Janice
Gutierrez-Lacourt, Executive Director of the ACLU of Puerto Rico.
"However uncomfortable some people here may be with lesbians and gay men,
they are even more uncomfortable with the government invading the most
personal and private aspects of their lives. We believe Puerto Ricans are
ready to get rid of this law, and so is our Supreme Court."
Earlier this year, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court reversed itself and
announced that it will hear the ACLUs challenge to the sodomy law, which
bars any private, consensual sexual contact between people of the same sex -
as well as certain forms of intimacy between any adults. The Court has not yet
scheduled oral arguments in the case, which will mark the first time in
history it has weighed gay rights.
Gutierrez-Lacourt said the sodomy law is a "clear danger" to
lesbians and gay men in Puerto Rico. For example, the lead plaintiff in the
ACLU lawsuit, Rev. Margarita Sanchez, was threatened with arrest in 1998 while
testifying against an anti-gay bill in the Puerto Rico legislature. In a
separate development the following year, an appeals court ruled that Puerto
Ricos domestic violence law does not apply to lesbians and gay men because
the sodomy statute "makes homosexual conduct a crime."
Background and Chronology of Sanchez v. Puerto Rico
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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