Judge Upholds Same-Sex Marriage Ban in Puerto Rico
Alma Rosado,left, and Flor Maria Montijo, right, kiss after a mass same-sex wedding in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Aug. 16, 2015. Over 60 couples from around the region gathered in Puerto Rico’s capital to exchange vows at a same-sex marriage ceremony.Ricardo Arduengo / AP file
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A federal judge on Tuesday upheld Puerto Rico's same-sex marriage ban, ruling that last year's landmark Supreme Court decision on marriage rights doesn't necessarily apply to the unincorporated territory.
The U.S. Supreme Court's June decision in Obergefell v. Hodges requires all states to issue marriage licenses to gay couples and to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.
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But in his decision on Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez said that the Obergefellruling doesn't necessarily include Puerto Rico.
"One might be tempted to assume that the constant reference made to the 'States' in Obergefell includes the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico," Pérez-Giménez wrote in his decision. "Yet, it is not the role of this court to venture into such an interpretation."
The judge based his ruling on Puerto Rico's status as an "unincorporated territory" that "is not treated as the functional equivalent of a State for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment."
Therefore, Pérez-Giménez concluded, the U.S. Constitution applies only in part to a territory like Puerto Rico.
"Under this doctrine, 'the Constitution applies in full in incorporated Territories surely destined for statehood but only in part in unincorporated Territories.'" he wrote.
The judge upheld the same ban in October 2014. That decision was challenged in light of Obergefell, but Pérez-Giménez denied the motion.
His latest ruling will likely be appealed.
Becky Bratu is a staff writer at NBC News covering national, international and breaking news for NBCNews.com. She joined NBCNews full-time in November 2011, and previously worked within the company as a Web producer for "Nightly News with Brian Williams" and "Rock Center with Brian Williams." She began working at Rockefeller Center as an intern in June 2011.
Bratu previously worked for newspapers and television stations in Romania and Germany, and did a stint as a blogger and Web producer for a tech and social media start-up in Virginia.
She comes from Arad, Romania, and attended Columbia University in New York and Washington and Lee University in Virginia.