Last edited: January 28, 2005

Puerto Rico Court Overturns Gay Rights Law

The Advocate, April 22, 2003

The Puerto Rico supreme court has stripped protections for gay men and lesbians from the U.S. territory’s domestic-violence laws, the Orlando [Fla.] Sentinel reports. The 4-3 decision set aside criminal charges against Leandro Ruiz Martinez for beating his boyfriend, Juan J. del Valle. In its ruling the court said domestic-violence protections do not apply to gay men and lesbians because the legislative intent of the laws is to “strengthen the institution of the family,” defined as one of a “sentimental and legal union between a man and a woman.”

The court’s decision comes just as Puerto Rico’s legislature is set to revise its penal codes for the first time in 30 years, including a controversial sodomy law that gay people say makes them criminals. They pointed to the Martinez-Del Valle case as an example of how the sodomy law unfairly targets gay couples. Before he could speak about the violence inflicted upon him by his boyfriend, Del Valle had to obtain immunity from prosecution in order not to be charged with breaking the sodomy law, which criminalizes any sexual contact not traditionally used for procreation.

“Society in general wants to claim that we are in the same situation in which we were 30 years ago,” said Ricardo Ramirez Lugo of the Legal Assistance Clinic at the University of Puerto Rico’s Law School. “The decision by the court reflects that wish for the [gay] community to be nonexistent, for the closet to keep growing.”

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