Same-sex marriage is now legal in all fifty states, which you all know because of the rainbow images all over your Facebook feed. But U.S. territories saw their laws change on Friday, too, and the cultural and political effects of the decision in those sometimes far-flung parts of America has been tremendous.
Judging from news reports, most of the 3.5 million Americans in Puerto Rico — more U.S. citizens than in Mississippi or Utah — are ecstatic that same-sex couples can now be legally married there.
An article and video in the newspaper El Nuevo Día depicted a scene similar to those on the mainland, with a group of tourists from Kansas joining Puerto Rican same-sex couples and their families in celebrating the verdict. The plaintiffs in a pending federal lawsuit for marriage equality in Puerto Rico were thrilled that their case would not have to proceed:
“I feel relieved because it has been a hard fight, for years, for so many people who have suffered this injustice,” said [lawyer Ada] Conde, whose phone was ringing nonstop. “The couples (plaintiffs in the Puerto Rican case) are crying with emotion.”
Religious leaders in the predominantly Catholic Puerto Rico responded with now-familiar gripes about the Supreme Court decision. Roberto Octavio González, the Archbishop of San Juan, reassured the faithful that the Catholic Church still defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. He made the usual arguments that the institution of marriage was thousands of years old, and same-sex marriage disrupted family structures. So far, it’s the Religious Right as usual.
But González took his complaints further, saying the Supreme Court’s imposition of marriage equality on Puerto Rico basically amounted to colonial oppression. In a press release, he stated,
“We lament that, through the colonial nature of our political-legal relationship with the United States, the decision of their highest judicial body regarding marriage between people of the same sex is applicable in Puerto Rico.”
While disgruntled residents of conservative states make empty threats about moving abroad, a vocal minority of Puerto Ricans are still fighting for independence. The Archbishop pandered directly to them, implying divine right for their cause.
Still, González avoided directly suggesting a revolution against the nation that has made Puerto Rico one of the most stable and prosperous places in the Caribbean. Instead, he advised homophobic Puerto Ricans to keep their mouths shut:
We know that at the root of this lamentable judicial decision there will be those who take advantage of the situation in order to misinform, to diminish the institution of marriage or to create debates and induce Puerto Ricans or Christians to argue among themselves, to improve the ratings of TV programs and mass media outlets. However, we cannot fall into the temptation to lash out pre-emptively against others who think differently. Truth without compassion weakens itself, and arguments without mercy are inhumane.
It’s actually heartening to see a religious leader advise his followers to avoid debating the pro-LGBT majority because he doesn’t want them to look like fools. On the other hand, it’s those very debates that could possibly change some of their minds.
Maybe they can tune out religious rhetoric altogether and heed singer Ricky Martin, who urged Puerto Ricans to “stop looking with critical eyes and accept that the time has come to move toward better understanding, tolerance, solidarity, and acceptance.”
As usual, pop icons speak louder than cranky religious leaders.
(Image via Shutterstock)