San Juan Prepares Review of Sodomy Law
February 22, 2001
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico The Supreme Court of Puerto
Rico is preparing to hear arguments challenging its anti-gay sodomy law - the
first gay civil rights case of the highest courts 101-year history.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the legal challenge to
the sodomy law, will lead a variety of public forums and events with Puerto
Rican gay civil rights activists which will last throughout the week.
This series of events known in Puerto Rico as a "jornada"
caps months of political protests against the sodomy law, including group
fasts and weekly protests in front of the Supreme Court building 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 leaders.
"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 of the ACLU in 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 in the year, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court reversed itself and
announced that it would hear the ACLUs challenge to its 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 the court has pondered the rights of its gay and lesbian citizens.
Gutierrez-Lacourt said the sodomy law presents a "clear danger"
to the civil rights of gay men and lesbians living on the island.
The lead plaintiff in the ACLU suit, the 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."
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