SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (CNS) — Puerto Rican Catholics have been quite outspoken against same-sex marriage, but their voices were not as strong during or after a massive outdoor same-sex wedding ceremony supported by government.
Sixty-four of the 73 same-sex couples scheduled to take vows attended the event held at Paseo de la Princesa mall in old San Juan Aug. 16, the day a severe months-long drought broke with heavy rain throughout the island.
Among hundreds of supporters who braved the weather, only a handful of people carried small signs in opposition to the event.
Bishop Daniel Fernandez Torres of Arecibo was the only church official to speak out against the event.
“Today is a sad day for Puerto Rican society. Moved by love and compassion for our neighbor, it is necessary to remember to all that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered,” said Bishop Fernandez said in a brief statement. “They are contrary to natural law.”
Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan had expressed his views on the issue before the wedding ceremony.
“Same-sex marriage destroys the richness of the complementary qualities of the sexes and deprives progeny of the paternal or maternal figure,” said the archbishop in a press release from the Puerto Rican Bishops Conference.
“Marriage and family are not the makings of governors or judges, but of the consciousness of early beings of the human species who populated earth after a long and millenary evolution process.”
The Catholic Church teaches marriage is between a man and a woman and that sex outside marriage is a sin. At the same time, the church upholds the human dignity of all people.
Back in March, Archbishop Gonzalez had called for a referendum on same-sex marriage to counter a “dictatorial imposition on the state’s part.” He was referring to Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla’s proposed civil code amendment to legalize same-sex marriage.
“We want a society that welcomes, accompanies, loves and protects the legitimate rights of its homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and transgender sons and daughters,” he said. “This does not justify their union being analogous to man-woman marriage, the only union able to pass on life and to reflect the Creator’s will.”
The same-sex wedding ceremony was performed by dozens of pastors from a wide range of religions and spiritual movements as well as civil celebrants.
The Revs. Albert Rivera of Mayaguez and Hector Ortiz of Manati, pastors of Iglesia Cristocentrica de Restauracion Integral, served as celebrants aided by their own husbands, Carlos Camuy and Osvaldo Zambrana, respectively. Their ministry calls itself “an open doors church serving the LGBTT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite, transsexual) community.”
“Yes, we are married to each other after 17 years together,” Rev. Rivera told Catholic News Service, “and we serve people who feel rejected, discriminated, judged by any type of discrimination at the so called traditional churches.”
He added: “We are not a religion, we are an interdenominational church composed of Catholics and Protestants from several denominations.”
This type of congregation is growing in Puerto Rico. The local LGBTT movement is supported mainly by organizations like Puerto Rico Para Todos (Puerto Rico for All) and Fundacion de Derechos Humanos de Puerto Rico (Human Rights Foundation of Puerto Rico). Para Todos was founded 12 years ago by Catholic schools graduate and internationally known gay activist Pedro Julio Serrano. Fundacion de Derechos Humanos was started by lawyer Ada Conde Vidal, who in 2014 challenged in federal court Puerto Rico’s law banning recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other U.S. jurisdictions.
The first valid same-sex wedding in Puerto Rico was held July 17 in San Juan.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 26 that marriage licenses cannot be denied to same-sex couples, Puerto Rico’s governor said the U.S. territory would comply within 15 days. Same-sex couples began applying for marriage licenses July 13.
“With charity, respect and assertiveness that typify every Christian, let’s be brave witnesses of truth about marriage and family at our homes, communities, with our children and everywhere we are,” Archbishop Gonzalez said in closing his statement. “Today, more than ever, Puerto Rico needs it.”