Melissa joined 15 New York elected officials in releasing a statement last Friday denouncing a recent decision by the Puerto Rico Supreme Court which upheld a lower court’s decision that limits domestic violence protections for women involved in extramarital affairs. See below for the statement.**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** APRIL 1, 2011
NEW YORK ELECTED OFFICIALS REACT TO PUERTO RICO SUPREME COURT DECISION LIMITING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTIONS
Joint Statement by NYC Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, NYS Senator Gustavo Rivera, NYS Assembly Members Carmen Arroyo and Robert Rodriguez, NYC Council Women’s Caucus Co-Chairs Jessica Lappin and Rosie Mendez, Women’s Issues Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras, and Council Members Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Gale Brewer, Margaret Chin, Inez Dickens, Helen Diane Foster, Letitia James, Karen Koslowitz, Diana Reyna and Joel Rivera
“The Supreme Court of Puerto Rico last week confirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals of Puerto Rico that found that a woman who suffers violence at the hands of an intimate partner with whom she is having an extramarital affair is not entitled to the same protection of law as a woman who is abused by her husband. This appalling decision sends a wrong message to society and women, and represents a step backward in the fight to end domestic violence.
“The Puerto Rican Supreme Court, in its sentence, has ignored the reality that domestic violence occurs in the context of an intimate relationship whether it is exclusive in nature or not. Instead, the Court’s interpretation of Law 54 has effectively put into place an absurd double standard and establishes a suspect category in Puerto Rico: that it is somehow less serious when a woman committing adultery suffers violence at the hands of her intimate partner. This Court’s attempt to impart moral and religious judgments through the interpretation of the law is completely illegal and unacceptable, and can only lead to potentially dangerous consequences for Puerto Rican women and families. Women have the right to be protected from violence at the hands of intimate partners; and they need the protection of the law, which should be blind to what we may or may not consider to be moral behavior. Domestic violence rates in Puerto Rico are alarmingly high and women are the primary victims and survivors. In the context of Women’s History Month, this decision flies in the face of the long struggle, primarily led by women, to secure protections against domestic violence such as those guaranteed in Law 54.
“As lawmakers – many of us Puerto Rican, Latino/a and women – representing districts in New York, we denounce this outrageous decision by the Court, and also commend the three dissenting justices, particularly Justice Liana Fiol Matta, who wrote so passionately against the decision. Additionally, we call on Puerto Rico’s Legislative Assembly and Governor Fortuño to correct any possible ambiguities in Law 54 so that is abundantly clear that all intimate relationships – including extramarital affairs, as well as same-sex relationships, which are not currently referenced in the law either – are considered equal when it comes to domestic violence protections.”