Puerto Rico celebrates first official gay marriage
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Puerto Rico celebrates first official gay marriage

Following the June 26 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, Puerto Rico’s governor, Alejandro García Padilla, announced to islanders that the Civil Registry would begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples within 15 days.

The registry needed time, Governor García said, to update the language of the bureaucratic paperwork so that it would be gender-neutral: “Spouse A” and “Spouse B,” rather than “Husband” and “Wife.”

Government sources reported to media outlets, including New York’s El Diario/La Prensa that the revised marriage license paperwork would be ready by July 15. In addition, the paper indicated, death certificates would be similarly changed, enabling spouses to request and receive benefits in the event that their legally married spouse dies.

Wedding bells

While the Civil Registry did not answer its phones on Friday, it appears that staff charged with the task of updating license and certificate documents met their deadline. That same day, Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Día reported that the island celebrated its first official gay marriage ceremony on the afternoon of July 17.

Writers Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro and Zulma Oliveras Vega were married in the San Juan neighborhood of Santurce. The moment was particularly special as Arroyo and Oliveras, who have been together for seven years, were one among five couples who formed the group of plaintiffs in the landmark case Conde v. García Padilla.

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The case, which sought both “the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Puerto Rico and [recognition of] the legal marriages of same-sex couples entered into in other jurisdictions,” was filed in March 2014 in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico by attorney Ada Mercedes Conde Vital.

Conde, who had married her wife, Ivonne Álvarez, in Massachusetts, brought four other couples into the case in June 2014. Though the case was dismissed by the district court just a few months later, it attracted the attention of Lambda Legal, which filed a notice of appeal on behalf of the plaintiffs.

A dream come true

Fortunately, neither Conde and Álvarez nor Arroyo and Oliveras had to wait for that case to chug through the slow machinery of appeals. The Supreme Court decision trumped all pending litigation.

Conde and Álvarez would have their legal marriage recognized on the island of their birth, and Arroyo and Oliveras could finally make the vows they’d been dreaming about for so long.

While the updated forms are not yet available on the Civil Registry’s website, information about marriage licenses (and, yes, death certificates) can be found here.

As of now, forms will need to be picked up in person at the registry’s office.