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Repeal of DOMA Affects Puerto Rico

Hemera/Thinkstock(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- The Supreme Court's decision to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act also affects Puerto Rico.

The federal government gives 1,138 rights, benefits and protections to married couples, including immigration rights, which are now extended to same-sex couples. Even though same-sex marriage is not legal in Puerto Rico, those who get married in one of the 13 states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is recognized will get all federal rights on the island as well.

Local benefits, however, are still not available to these couples. For now.

Renowned activist Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesperson for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, says that in just the past four months, the climate has changed tremendously towards gay rights in Puerto Rico. During this time, four state laws have passed protecting the LGBT community. A controversial law banning discrimination because of sexual oriental and gender identity in the workplace was signed into law in May. There was also an extension of domestic violence protections to all households, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Two other laws now include LGBT families in public and private healthcare plans on the island.

As Pedro Julio notes, Latinos are more likely than any other ethnic group to support gay marriage, but there's still a long way to go in terms of unteaching what are essentially cultural norms and assumptions about the LGBT community in Puerto Rico.

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