SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – More than 60 gay couples are preparing to exchange vows at a mass wedding in Puerto Rico, celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court ruling affecting the socially conservative U.S. territory, organizers said Wednesday.
Most of the couples are Puerto Ricans, but others from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Venezuela also are participating in the event scheduled for Sunday in San Juan's colonial district.
"This is a historic event for all of Puerto Rico," said organizer Ada Conde, an attorney who had filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have her gay marriage recognized in the U.S. territory prior to the Supreme Court decision. "This is not a show. This is not a parade. This is a solemn event to celebrate the fruit of our sacrifice."
Conde said she anticipated protests and noted that police officers would be posted at the ceremony.
Puerto Rico until recently prohibited same-sex marriage and the recognition of such marriages, but the government struck down those laws after the Supreme Court decision. Officials also now allow gay couples to adopt children, and two couples have already begun that process, said Nancy Vega, director of the island's demographics office.
Among those getting married Sunday is Maritza Lopez, who has been with her partner for 39 years and was among those who filed a lawsuit against Puerto Rico's government.
"You would think that after 39 years I wouldn't be nervous, but I am," she said with a laugh. "I have butterflies in my stomach. I didn't think any of this was going to happen so quickly."
Previously, the administration of Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla had approved several measures in in favor of the gay community, including one that prohibits employment discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation and another that extends a domestic violence law to gay couples. This week, the governor also signed two executive orders that will allow transgender and transsexual people to change their gender on their driver's license and protect their rights when seeking medical services.