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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – Puerto Rico’s Justice Department says it will not defend the territory’s laws banning gay marriage in a major turnaround for the socially conservative island.

Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda said on March 20 that the government can no longer continue to discriminate against the gay community.

Several gay couples in Puerto Rico filed a suit last year challenging the constitutionality of Puerto Rican laws that define marriage as between a man and a woman, as well as those that prohibit same-sex marriage and the recognition of such marriages.

The Justice department defended the laws before a federal judge who upheld them. But the case has been appealed to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston and Miranda says the department will no longer intervene.