Last edited: February 13, 2005

Puerto Ricans Rally in San Juan

The 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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