US Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality reverberates in Puerto Rico
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US Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality reverberates in Puerto Rico

The June 26 ruling of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Obergefell v Hodges determined that gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states. When the decision was announced at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time on Friday, people rushed to gather at landmarks such as New York’s Stonewall Inn to celebrate the news. Later that night, iconic U.S. structures, from the Empire State Building to the White House, were washed in rainbow-colored lights in honor of the momentous decision.

Rainbow lights were switched on beyond the U.S. mainland, too; Supreme Court rulings extend to U.S. territories and commonwealths. In San Juan, Puerto Rico, the Capitol lit up and people took to the streets to rejoice.

Prior to the ruling, Puerto Rico was in the same category as the 13 states where same-sex marriage was illegal. As was the case in those other states, there were several LGBT couples seeking the right to marry who had cases pending in circuit courts.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company, the island’s official tourism bureau, wasted no time posting on social media: “Now we can finally make ANY dream wedding come true. #LoveWins #YesInPuertoRico” and changed its Twitter profile photo to an icon featuring a rainbow flag.

And San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Crúz, who has been a staunch and outspoken supporter of LGBT rights, tweeted in caps: “HOY ES UN GRAN DÍA PARA EL AMOR Y LA EQUIDAD!” (Today is a great day for love and equality!”)

Not everyone in Puerto Rico was celebrating, however. Representatives of the Catholic Church, led by Archbishop Roberto Gónzalez Nieves, made a public statement denouncing the Supreme Court’s decision. They stated that the Court’s authority does not extend to churches. The ruling, they said, was an affront to marriage, arguing, “Matrimony between people of the same sex destroys the richness of the complementary nature of the sexes and deprives the public of of a father or mother figure.”

Regardless of the opposition, Puerto Rico, as a commonwealth or free associated state of the United States, is obliged to comply with the Court’s ruling. Governor Alejandro García Padilla announced that the island’s Civil Registry would be ready to process marriage licenses to same-sex couples within 15 days. According to local newspaper Primera Hora, the registry has already started the process of changing paperwork so that its language no longer reads “Husband and Wife” but “Spouse A and Spouse B.”

Couples who want to apply for a license can visit the Registry’s website and begin gathering their paperwork.

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