A federal appeals court on Thursday stated unambiguously that Puerto Rico's ban on same-sex couples' marriages is unconstitutional, throwing a federal judge off a case after the judge had ruled in March that the ban was still in effect. "The district court's ruling errs in so many respects that it is hard to know where to begin," the unsigned opinion from the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals stated in harshly criticizing U.S. District Court Judge Juan Perez-Gimenez's actions in the case.
Following a historic Supreme Court ruling last summer, marriage equality is the law of the land from coast to coast. There were still states with laws on the books blocking same-sex couples from having equal marriage rights, but they were out of luck.
For some on the far-right, however, there's still hope that they'll somehow be able to restore discriminatory policies at some point in the future. But for other conservatives, there was an entirely different, short-term goal: maybe there was a chance to block marriage equality in Puerto Rico?
As BuzzFeed reported yesterday, this didn't turn out well for the right, either.
This case took a few curious twists. Perez-Gimenez ruled in favor of the same-sex-marriage ban in 2014, but after last year's Obergefell ruling, the 1st Circuit told the judge to reconsider the case in light of the Supreme Court's decision. Puerto Rico's governor was already recognizing the shift and same-sex couples were already getting married.
But the Puerto Rican judge was surprisingly stubborn, upholding the marriage ban again last month, insisting the Supreme Court's ruling didn't apply in the territory.
The appeals court wasn't pleased. In fact, it not only ordered the district court to strike down Puerto Rican's ban as unconstitutional, the 1st Circuit also removed Perez-Gimenez from the case.
The entirety of yesterday's decision is online here. It's unusual, and kind of amusing, to see an appellate court chastise a district court judge in such blunt and direct terms.