Meet the Families Fighting for Marriage in Puerto Rico

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June 25, 2014
Ada Mercedes Conde Vidal & Ivonne Álvarez Vélez

Lambda Legal has joined a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico on behalf of five same-sex couples and Puerto Rico Para Tod@s challenging Puerto Rico’s discriminatory marriage ban. Here are their stories:


Ada Mercedes Conde Vidal & Ivonne Álvarez Vélez (San Juan): Ada Conde Vidal (53) and Ivonne Álvarez Vélez (67) have been together for 14 years. They married in Massachusetts in 2004 and have one daughter. Their daughter was hospitalized for open-heart surgery. Ada and Ivonne need their marriage to be recognized in Puerto Rico so that they don’t have to worry about caring for each other and their family in the event of an emergency.


Maritza López Aviles  & Iris Delia Rivera Rivera (Toa Alta): Iris Delia Rivera Rivera (56) and Maritza López Aviles (58) have been together for 38 years. Iris is a former member of the National Guard deployed in the first Gulf War.  They are parents of one daughter.  Maritza and Iris want to marry each other in Puerto Rico, where they were both born and raised, and where they have large, supportive families eager to celebrate their wedding. Marriage would give them spousal and family veterans benefits. They do not have the economic resources to travel to and plan a wedding in a jurisdiction where marriage of same-sex couples is permitted.


José A. Torruellas Iglesias & Thomas J. Robinson (San Juan): José A. Torruellas Iglesias (57) and Thomas J. Robinson (56) have been together for 13 years and married in Toronto in 2007. José needs to add Thomas to his health insurance plan through his employer, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). Employees of PREPA with different-sex spouses can obtain health insurance for their spouses, but José has not been able to add Thomas to his health insurance, despite raising the issue many times over the years and requesting help from his union.  José and Thomas need their marriage recognized to access the healthcare coverage they need.


Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro & Zulma Oliveras Vega (Carolina): Zulma Oliveras Vega (43) and Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro (43) have been together for six years and are the parents of one daughter. Yolanda has asthma, and in 2014, Yolanda was hospitalized with bronchitis after she experienced complications with her asthma.  Without the security of marriage, Zulma and Yolanda are concerned about what would happen in a medical emergency.


Johanne Vélez García & Faviola Meléndez Rodríguez (Guaynabo): Johanne Vélez García (49) and Faviola Meléndez Rodríguez (37) have been together for six years and married in New York in 2012. Johanne and Faviola want to grow their family and wish to adopt a child.  Since Puerto Rico currently bars adoption by unmarried couples, in 2011 Johanne alone completed an adoption application, and then Johanne and Faviola completed the interview process and home observation together as a couple.  Johanne and Faviola worry that they have not been selected as adoptive parents due to the discrimination against LGBT couples in Puerto Rico. Johanne and Faviola need their marriage to be recognized in Puerto Rico so that they can be treated like a married couple during the adoption process.


Puerto Rico Para Tod@s: Puerto Rico Para Tod@s is a leading advocate for LGBT people and their families in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, in their struggle for social inclusion, equality and fairness.  It has hundreds of members throughout the Commonwealth, and many want to marry a life partner in Puerto Rico, but have been prevented from doing so by Puerto Rico’s marriage ban.