The government of Puerto Rico will cease defending the U.S. commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage, its justice minister said Friday.
“Because of sexual orientation, Puerto Rico has denied rights that others enjoy,” Justice Minister César Miranda said at a press conference in San Juan, the Washington Blade reports. “This is not correct.”
Puerto Rico is one of the few places in the U.S. where a federal court has upheld a marriage ban. U.S. District Judge Juan Perez-Gimenez did so in February, and his decision is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
Gov. Alejandro García Padilla’s administration filed a brief with the First Circuit Friday, saying it “cannot responsibly advance before this court any interest sufficiently important or compelling to justify the differentiated treatment afforded so far to plaintiffs.”
Among those praising the move was Puerto Rico native Ricky Martin. He sent out a tweet beginning, “Mi agradecimiento al Gobernador Alejandro García Padilla por demostrar que es un líder que no teme al los retos del presente,” which translates to “My gratitude to Governor Alejandro García Padilla for demonstrating that he is a leader who is not afraid to of the challenges of the present.”
Mi agradecimiento al Gobernador Alejandro García Padilla por demostrar que es un líder que no ... http://t.co/lTUtFY5tiw
— Ricky Martin (@ricky_martin) March 20, 2015
LGBT rights groups also offered praise. “The actions taken on this day complete the constitutional promises of justices and equality for LGBTT people in Puerto Rico,” Omar Gonzalez-Pagan of Lambda Legal, which is representing the same-sex couples challenging the ban, told the Blade.
Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, issued a statement commending the Puerto Rican government. “As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear marriage cases next month, this makes clear that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry,” he said.
There is precedent for Puerto Rico’s action, as officials in several states, including California, Nevada, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, have declined to defend marriage bans in court. And the U.S. government eventually ceased defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act, now invalidated by a Supreme Court decision.