Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

Former Puerto Rican lawmaker comes out

Roberto Arango, Puerto Rico, gay news, Washington Blade

Roberto Arango (Photo public domain)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A former member of the Puerto Rico Senate who resigned after naked pictures he posted to a gay website were revealed has come out of the closet.

“Yes,” Roberto Arango told the Puerto Rican radio station NotiUno in response to a question about whether he is gay as Blabbeando reported on March 7. “On top of that I am a businessman. On top of that I am a father, I am a brother, I am a son. On top of that I like doing community work and volunteering.”

Arango opposed efforts to extend rights to LGBT Puerto Ricans that include civil unions for same-sex couples while in the Puerto Rico Senate. He also used an anti-gay slur to refer to a San Juan mayoral candidate during a 2004 rally.

Arango resigned in 2011 after nude pictures of himself that he placed on Grindr began to circulate in the Puerto Rican media.

12
Mar
2014

Volleyball player murdered in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, gay news, Washington Blade

Puerto Rico’s hate crimes law includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. (Graphic by Raimond Spekking)

FAJARDO, Puerto Rico – A Puerto Rican man faces murder and other charges for allegedly stabbing a gay volleyball player to death last week.

Primera Hora reported Jesús David Hernández Otero’s family reported him missing on March 18 after he told his sister that he would return home shortly. Surfers at a nearby beach the following day found Hernández’s body with multiple stab wounds.

Authorities on March 19 arrested Neftalí Castillo Cabrera in connection with Hernández’s death.

Police officials told Primera Hora that Castillo attacked Hernández — who had been friends with his alleged killer since childhood and played on the same volleyball team with him — because he was gay. Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a local LGBT advocacy group, has urged authorities to investigate Hernández’s murder as a hate crime.

“They should not be afraid to bring an aggravating hate crime charge,” Serrano told el Nuevo Día on March 24.

Puerto Rico’s hate crimes law includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Gov. Alejandro García Padilla last May signed into law a bill that bans anti-LGBT discrimination in the U.S. commonwealth.

26
Mar
2014

Lesbian couple files marriage lawsuit in Puerto Rico

Ivonne Álvarez Velez, Pedro Julio Serrano, Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, Ada Conde Vidal, gay news, Washington Blade

Ivonne Álvarez Velez, left, with Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s and Ada Conde Vidal. (Photo courtesy of Pedro Julio Serrano)

A lesbian couple on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit that seeks recognition of their Massachusetts marriage in Puerto Rico.

“We wish to enjoy the same social privileges and contractual rights that are conferred by the commonwealth on individuals in opposite-sex marriages and not to be treated as we are being treated as second class citizens differentiated, alienated and discriminated in comparison to other U.S. citizens,” say Ada Conde Vidal and Ivonne Álvarez Velez in their lawsuit they filed in U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico in San Juan. “Puerto Rico law precluding recognition of lawful same-sex marriages denies us those rights in violation of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

Conde and Álvarez, who have been together for nearly 14 years, exchanged vows in Massachusetts in 2004 shortly after the state’s same-sex marriage law took effect.

Puerto Rican lawmakers in 1999 amended the U.S. commonwealth’s civil code to ban recognition of same-sex marriages – even those legally performed in other jurisdictions. Unions in which one person is transgender are also not recognized.

Conde, who is a lawyer, says in the lawsuit that Álvarez could not make medical decisions on behalf of her daughter who had open heart surgery because Puerto Rican officials do not recognize their relationship. The couple is also unable to file their income taxes in the U.S. commonwealth as a married couple.

“If she dies, I want my marriage legally recognized,” Conde told the Washington Blade on Wednesday. “If I am not recognized, I will not have any rights to request her estate.”

The lawsuit names Puerto Rico Health Secretary Ana Rius Armendariz and Wanda Llovet Díaz, director of the Puerto Rico Demographic Registry, as defendants.

“The commonwealth of Puerto Rico statutory provision has created a legal system in which civil marriage is restricted solely and exclusively to opposite-sex couples, and in which gay and lesbian individuals are denied the right to enter into a civil marriage,” say Conde and Álvarez. “The commonwealth of Puerto Rico statutory provision also deprives same-sex couples of federal marital privileges and benefits that, upon information and belief are available to same-sex couples who marry under state laws authorizing such benefits but that are not available to plaintiffs and other same-sex couples in Puerto Rico.”

18 states and D.C. have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver next month is scheduled to hold oral arguments in two cases challenging the constitutionality of state constitutional amendments that ban same-sex marriage in Oklahoma and Utah. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., in May is slated to hear a case that challenges Virginia’s gay nuptials ban.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in the coming months is expected to hear oral arguments in a challenge to Nevada’s same-sex marriage ban. A federal appeals court in New Orleans will likely hear a similar case that challenges Texas’ gay nuptials prohibition after U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia last month ruled the state’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday placed a hold on same-sex marriages in Michigan pending an appeal of a lower court ruling that struck down the state’s gay nuptials ban.

A federal judge late last month ordered Kentucky to recognize marriages legally performed outside the state. Gays and lesbians in Florida, Alabama, Arizona, West Virginia and other states have also filed lawsuits seeking the right to marry since the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The federal government recognizes legally married same-sex couples for tax and other purposes.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last month announced the Justice Department will now recognize same-sex marriages in civil and criminal cases and extend full benefits to gay spouses of police officers and other public safety personnel – even in states that have yet to allow nuptials for gays and lesbians. He said a few weeks later that state attorneys general do not have to defend same-sex marriage bans.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring are among those who have declined to defend same-sex marriage bans in their respective states.

Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, noted to the Blade that Gov. Alejandro García Padilla last June applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling that applies to the American commonwealth. Serrano added he hopes Puerto Rico Justice Secretary César Miranda will not defend the island’s same-sex marriage ban in court.

“It is incumbent upon them to do the right thing if they truly believe in LGBT equality,” Serrano told the Blade, noting García has signed four pro-LGBT measures into law since taking office in January 2013. “It’s incumbent upon them not to defend this law because it’s unjust.”

Multiple attempts to reach the Puerto Rico Justice Department for comment on Conde and Álvarez’s lawsuit on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

“I’m a U.S. citizen,” Conde told the Blade. “I have the same rights in the Constitution no matter where I am – in a territory, a commonwealth or a state. I’m claiming my full citizenship and equality as any other citizen in the United States of America.”

26
Mar
2014

Lesbian nominated to Puerto Rico Supreme Court

Puerto Rico, gay news, Washington Blade

A lesbian lawyer is poised to become the first out judge to sit on the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. (Graphic by Raimond Spekking)

A lesbian lawyer is poised to become the first out judge to sit on the Puerto Rico Supreme Court after Gov. Alejandro García Padilla on Wednesday announced her nomination.

Maite Oronoz Rodríguez appeared alongside García at his official residence in San Juan as he announced her nomination to fill a vacancy on the court. El Nuevo Día, a Puerto Rican newspaper, reported that Maite thanked her partner, Gina Méndez Miró, who is chief-of-staff for Puerto Rico Senate President Eduardo Bhatía, during the press conference.

“I am conscious of the enormous responsibility that has come to me,” said Maite as el Nueva Día reported.

Maite is currently the director of legal affairs for the city of San Juan.

“Today is a great day for equity,” said San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on her Twitter page.

Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, also applauded Maite and her partner.

“I congratulate, thank and celebrate Maite and Gina for living openly their love, for loving their homeland so much and for loving themselves openly,” said Serrano. “Today is a glorious day for equality.”

Dr. José Toro Alfonso, a faculty member of the University of Puerto Rico Department of Psychology who advocates on behalf of LGBT Puerto Ricans and those living with HIV/AIDS, described Maite as a “young, respected and openly lesbian woman.” He categorized her nomination to the Puerto Rico Supreme Court as “amazing.”

Puerto Rico has seen significant progress on a host of LGBT-specific issues since García took office in January 2013.

García has thus far signed four pro-LGBT bills into law — including measures banning anti-LGBT discrimination in the U.S. commonwealth and adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the island’s domestic violence laws. A lesbian couple from San Juan earlier this year filed a federal lawsuit seeking recognition of their Massachusetts marriage in Puerto Rico.

Homophobic and transphobic violence remains a serious concern among the island’s advocates, but Serrano stressed Maite’s nomination is another step forward for LGBT Puerto Ricans.

“I said last year when four laws in support of the LGBTT community were approved: There is no going back,” said Serrano. “Today we take a historic step in the right direction that demonstrates that Puerto Rico is for all of us. The governor has made an excellent nomination.”

Toro told the Blade he expects the Puerto Rico Senate will approve Maite’s nomination during confirmation hearings that are scheduled to take place next week.

04
Jun
2014

Lesbian’s nomination to Puerto Rico Supreme Court confirmed

Puerto Rico, gay news, Washington Blade

The Puerto Rico Senate on Monday approved a lesbian’s nomination to become the first openly LGBT judge to sit on the U.S. commonwealth’s Supreme Court. (Graphic by Raimond Spekking)

The Puerto Rico Senate on Monday confirmed the nomination of a lawyer who will become the first openly LGBT judge on the U.S. commonwealth’s Supreme Court.

Senators initially approved Maite Oronoz Rodríguez’s nomination in a voice vote, but they debated it after Sens. María de Lourdes Santiago and Larry Seilhamer made the request as as the newspaper el Nuevo Día reported. They ultimately approved Oronoz’s nomination by a 16-10 vote margin.

“The constitution says that the dignity of the human being is inviolable; we are all equal under the law,” said Senate President Eduardo Bhatía. “We have the ability to build a democracy where everyone is equal under the law.”

“The most important things are her professional qualifications, the historic nature of her nomination and her work as a lawyer,” added Sen. Tony Fas Alzamora.

Former Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz is among the six senators who opposed Orodoz’s nomination.

Gov. Alejandro García Padilla earlier this month nominated Oronoz to fill a vacancy on the court.

Oronoz’s partner, Gina Méndez Miró, is Bhatía’s chief-of-staff.

“I applaud her for this recognition,” said García in a statement after the Senate approved Oronoz’s nomination. “I echo my words from when I nominated her: She is an example of what this new generation can offer to Puerto Rico.”

Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, also applauded Oronoz.

“We celebrate this historic step,” he said.

Dr. José Toro Alfonso, a faculty member of the University of Puerto Rico Department of Psychology who advocates on behalf of LGBT Puerto Ricans and those living with HIV/AIDS, also praised the senators who backed Oronoz’s nomination.

“It is a great advance for justice in Puerto Rico and an extraordinary triumph for the gay community,” Toro told the Washington Blade.

Oronoz’s nomination is the latest milestone for LGBT Puerto Ricans since García took office in January 2013.

The Democrat has thus far signed four pro-LGBT bills into law. These include measures banning anti-LGBT discrimination in the U.S. commonwealth and adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the island’s domestic violence law.

A lesbian couple from San Juan in March filed a federal lawsuit seeking recognition of their Massachusetts marriage in Puerto Rico.

García supports civil unions for gays and lesbians, but he has yet to publicly support marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Anti-LGBT violence and the Puerto Rico Police Department’s response to it continue to cause concern among the island’s advocates. They also remain critical of San Juan Archbishop Roberto González Nieves, Rev. Wanda Rolón and other religious leaders who continue to oppose efforts to expand rights to LGBT Puerto Ricans.

“Even with the openly opposition of the fundamentalist religions, including the archbishop of San Juan and some of the minority senators, this confirmation represents the right direction for human rights in our island,” Toro told the Blade.

24
Jun
2014

Four same-sex couples join Puerto Rico marriage lawsuit

Ivonne Álvarez Velez, Pedro Julio Serrano, Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, Ada Conde Vidal, gay news, Washington Blade

Ivonne Álvarez Velez, left, with Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s and Ada Conde Vidal. (Photo courtesy of Pedro Julio Serrano)

Four gay and lesbian couples on Wednesday joined a federal same-sex marriage lawsuit in Puerto Rico.

Iris Delia Rivera Rivera, a former member of the Puerto Rico National Guard, and Maritza López Aviles have been together for 38 years and have a daughter. Zulma Oliveras Vega and Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro of Carolina also have a daughter.

José A. Torruellas Iglesias and Thomas J. Robinson of San Juan, who have been together for 13 years, married in Canada in 2007. Johanne Vélez García and Faviola Meléndez Rodríguez of Guaynabo, who have been together for six years, tied the knot in New York in 2012.

Lambda Legal and Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, also joined the lawsuit that Ada Mercedes Conde Vidal and Ivonne Álvarez Vélez of San Juan filed in March in the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico

Conde and Álvarez who have been together for nearly 14 years married in Massachusetts in 2004. They are raising their daughter in the Puerto Rican capital.

Conde is also one of the lawyers in the case.

“Puerto Rico is our home, we are very proud of our U.S. citizenship and we are not second-class citizens,” she said in a press release. “We demand our equality, proclaim our love though our marriage and our right to happiness in Puerto Rico.”

“Puerto Rico is loving, respectful, inclusive, supportive and responsive,” added Puerto Rico Para Tod@s Director Pedro Julio Serrano. “The majority of our people support marriage equality for partners of LGBTT people because it is consistent with our values of respect, inclusion and equality.”

Puerto Rican lawmakers in 1999 amended the U.S. commonwealth’s civil code to ban recognition of same-sex marriages — even those legally performed in other jurisdictions. Unions in which one person is transgender are also not recognized.

Gov. Alejandro García Padilla supports civil unions for gays and lesbians, but has yet to publicly back marriage rights for same-sex couples. The Democrat has signed a bill that added sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to Puerto Rico’s anti-discrimination law and three other pro-LGBT measures into law since taking office in January 2013.

Maite Oronoz Rodríguez will become the first openly LGBT judge on the U.S. commonwealth’s Supreme Court after the Puerto Rico Senate on Monday confirmed her nomination.

San Juan Archbishop Roberto González Nieves, Rev. Wanda Rolón and others religious figures are among those who continue to oppose efforts to expand rights to LGBT Puerto Ricans.

“Our people are already on the right side of history,” said Serrano. “Now it’s the government’s turn.”

Same-sex couples can legally marry in 20 states and D.C.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Wednesday struck down Utah’s gay nuptials ban. A federal judge in Indiana earlier in the day ruled the Hoosier State’s prohibition of same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.

More than 20 federal and state courts have ruled in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples since the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

25
Jun
2014

Puerto Rico governor signs LGBT bills into law

Alejandro García Padilla, Puerto Rico, Washington Blade, gay news

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla (Public domain photo by the U.S. Department of Labor)

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla on Wednesday signed two bills into law that ban anti-LGBT discrimination on the island and add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the U.S. commonwealth’s domestic violence laws.

“The dignity of being a human being is inviolable because we are all the same and we must be equal under the law,” the governor said in a tweet before he signed the measures at his official residence in San Juan. “Today is a great day for Puerto Rico. I feel that I have fulfilled my duty as a Christian to sign these laws.”

The Puerto Rico Senate on Monday approved an amended version of the non-discrimination bill that passed by a 29-22 vote margin in the island’s House of Representatives on Friday. Lawmakers on the same day also approved the domestic violence measure.

The Puerto Rico Senate first approved the non-discrimination bill on May 16 by a 15-11 vote margin.

“It’s a new day in Puerto Rico,” Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force told the Washington Blade before García signed the measures into law. “After years of struggle, we are on the brink of equality. Puerto Rico will be a place for all.”

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and singer Ricky Martin are among those who have also applauded the passage of the two bills.

A number of prominent Puerto Rican religious leaders criticized lawmakers who supported the measures.

29
May
2013

Senate confirms first openly gay Latina to federal court

Nitza Quiñones, United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Washington Blade, gay news

The Senate confirmed Nitza Quiñones by voice vote as a federal judge. (Image courtesy of the United States Senate)

The U.S. Senate confirmed on Thursday by voice vote for the first time ever an openly gay Latina to the federal judiciary.

The Senate confirmed Nitza Quiñones Alejandro, who has been a judge on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas since 1991, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, along with another nominee, Jeffrey Schmehl.

Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, commended the Senate for what he said was the confirmation of another well-qualified LGBT person to the federal judiciary.

“We are very pleased to see yet another highly qualified, openly-LGBT nominee confirmed to the federal bench – particularly a woman of color who helps reflect the diversity of the American people in the judiciary,” Cole-Schwartz said.

A Puerto Rico native, Quiñones breaks a glass ceiling as the first openly LGBT Hispanic to serve on the federal bench. Additionally, she’s the seventh openly LGBT person ever to receive confirmation as a federal judge.

President Obama first nominated Quiñones for the position in November and renominated her at the start of the 113th Congress in January as part of a group of 33 nominees.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who recommended the Quiñones nomination, said in a statement he’s “pleased” the Senate confirmed her along with Schmehl “in a bipartisan fashion.”

“Nitza’s life as a lawyer, judge and civic leader make her a true American success story,” Casey said. “Her 21 years on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas have prepared her well for a seat on the federal bench, and I’m confident she’ll serve the Eastern District of Pennsylvania well.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), a Tea Party Republican who spoke highly of Quiñones when she was first nominated to the bench, took to Twitter to congratulate her and Schmehl upon their confirmation.

According to a bio provided by the White House, Quiñones, before serving on state court, worked as a staff attorney for the Department of Veterans Affairs and as an attorney advisor for the Department of Health and Human Services.

She received her law degree in 1975 from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law and graduated with honors in 1972 from the University of Puerto Rico with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

13
Jun
2013

Man pleads guilty to threatening activist

Pedro Julio Serrano, NGLTF, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Puerto Rico, San Juan, LGBT equality, adoption, gay news, Washington Blade

A man whom federal authorities accused of threatening to kill Puerto Rican LGBT rights advocate, Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, pleaded guilty to the charges. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A man whom federal authorities accused of threatening to kill Puerto Rican LGBT rights advocate Pedro Julio Serrano pleaded guilty to the charges on July 15.

The newspaper El Nuevo Día reported that Joseph Joel Morales Serrano, 26, pleaded guilty to cyber-bullying and transmitting a message through means of interstate or foreign commerce. He told U.S. District Court Judge José A. Fusté he sent Serrano a tweet on May 6 urging him to “be careful” while attending an LGBT rights march in San Juan that commemorated the annual International Day Against Homophobia or he would “end up like” those who were wounded or killed during the Boston Marathon bombing in April.

Fusté sentenced Morales to time served and three years of supervised release. The judge also ordered him to close his Twitter account for three years.

The newspaper reported Serrano and Morales hugged each other at the end of the hearing.

17
Jul
2013

Gay Puerto Rican boxer marries boyfriend

Orlando Cruz, Jose Manuel, Puerto Rico, New York City, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz (second from left) married José Manuel Colón , in New York’s Central Park on Nov. 16, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Pedro Julio Serrano)

Gay Puerto Rican boxer Orlando “El Fenómeno” Cruz on Nov. 16 married his boyfriend, José Manuel Colón, in New York’s Central Park.

New York City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is among the frontrunners to succeed outgoing New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the position, officiated the ceremony. Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Shirley Casiano were witnesses.

“Giving thanks to my heavenly father for one more day of life and with [my] husband José Manuel in it,” Cruz wrote in Spanish on his Facebook page on Sunday.

Cruz in Oct. 2012 became the first active professional boxer to come out as gay.

He wore trunks with a Puerto Rican flag in rainbow colors during his match against Mexican boxer Orlando Salido in Las Vegas last month for the WBO featherweight championship. Salido knocked Cruz out in the seventh round.

The National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in August included Cruz among its first class of inductees.

18
Nov
2013