Thursday, March 10, 2016

Federal District Judge Says Obergefell Does Not Bind Puerto Rico

In Vidal v. Garcia-Padilla, (D PR, March 8, 2016), a Puerto Rico federal district court held that the recognition of same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges  does not bind Puerto Rico until further action by the Supreme Court or Congress.  Relying on the so-called Insular Cases decided by the Supreme Court in the early 20th century, the court said "jurisprudence, tradition and logic teach us that Puerto Rico is not treated as the functional equivalent of a State for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment...."  The court concluded:
It is in light of the particular condition of Puerto Rico in relation to the Federal Constitution, with due consideration of the underlying cultural, social and political currents that have shaped over five centuries of Puerto Rican history, that the court examines the effect of Obergefell in the instant case. The court’s analysis, therefore, does not end with the incorporation of the fundamental right to same-sex marriage in the States. Generally, the question of whether a constitutional guarantee applies to Puerto Rico is subject to determination by Supreme Court of the United States.
Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog has more on the decision.