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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in the U.S. Territory of Guam

Part 1 of 5:
From 1950 to 2015-JUN: Events related to SSMs.
Lesbian couple refused marriage license,
and filed a lawsuit in Guam District Court.

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Pacific Ocean, with Guam indicated

Map of the Pacific Ocean with Guam indicated by a star.

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2015-APR-12: The Territory of Guam:

Guam is in the one of five U.S. territories in the Pacific Ocean. It is officially described as an "Unincorporated Organized Territory." It is located North of New Guinea and Australia. It is the largest and most southern of the Mariana Islands with a land area of 212 square miles. Guam's population was 159,358 in 2010. About 85% of residents identify as Roman Catholic. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church is currently unalterably opposed to marriage equality.

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1950 to 2015: Events in Guam related to same-sex marriages:

  • The Guam Organic Act of 1950 -- Guam's Constitution -- is silent on the matter of who is eligible to marry. 1 It was written long before marriage equality became widely discussed.

  • The Guam legal code, Section § 3107, deals with "Marriages Outside of Guam." It states:

    "All marriages contracted outside of the territory of Guam, which would be valid by the laws of the country in which the same were contracted, are valid in the territory of Guam." 2

    This would seem to indicate that a couple in Guam could visit Hawaii or any other location that has attained marriage equality, obtain a marriage license there, have their marriage solemnized there, return to Guam, and have their marriage recognized. However, this has never been tested. Although the Constitution does not ban same-sex marriage, and although the Guam Code seems to indicate that their marriage would be legal in Guam, the couple might have to file a lawsuit to have their marriage recognized.

  • During 2009, the Guam legislature debated a bill to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. It narrowly failed to pass. 3

  • Also during 2009, a poll was conducted by Pacific Daily News. It found that:
    • 26% of Guamanians supported same-sex marriage.

    • 27% supported same-sex domestic partnerships or civil unions

    • 29% wanted no legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

    • 18% had no opinion or did not answer the question. 4

This is a politician's nightmare. No matter what stand she or he takes, a substantial majority of the population would be opposed to their position

  • During 2014-OCT, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in the Idaho same-sex marriage case Latta v. Otter. They determined that state laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Same-sex couples are now able to marry in all nine states under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington state.

  • Presumably, the Federal District Court in Guam would be required to render a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage that mirrors the decision of the 9th Circuit Court.

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Developments as of 2015-APR-08:

The situation in Guam concerning same-sex marriage is unclear:

A lesbian couple in Guam -- Kathleen M. Aguero (Kate), 28 and Loretta M. Pangelinan (Lo), 28 have been in a relationship for over nine years. During that time they have been registered with the Government of Guam (GovGuam) as foster parents and have cared for a number of children over the years. They are currently caring for three children.

They could travel:

"... thousands of miles to another state where same-sex marriage is recognized to get married, such travel would be costly and difficult to arrange, given their busy schedules, responsibilities, and limited financial resources. More importantly, they want to be able to invite their friends and family on Guam to bear witness to their love and commitment for each other in the same way that different-sex couples in Guam are able to do, through marriage. Kate and Lo believe that they should not have to leave Guam to have their love and commitment recognized. 5

They went through the now familiar ritual of attempted to apply for a marriage license. As expected, they were refused because the marriage statute in the territory allow marriages only between one woman and one man.

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Developments on 2015-APR-13:

The couple filed a lawsuit in federal District Court for Guam at Hagatna, Guam. They said in their 25 page suit filed at the U.S. District Court of Guam in Hagatna. 5

Their lawsuit is based on the now familiar conflict between bans on same-sex marriage and the equal protection clause 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This clause has been cited by dozens of federal and state courts in same-sex marriage lawsuits during the past two years.

It says, in part:

"Civil marriage plays a unique role in society as a universally recognized and celebrated hallmark of a couple's commitment to build family life together. It confers upon couples a dignity and status of immense import. Plaintiffs have formed a committed, enduring family bond equally worthy of the respect afforded by GovGuam to different-sex couples through access to the status of marriage. GovGuam, without any adequate justification, has enacted, and Defendants have interpreted and enforced the laws in ways that single out Guam's gay, lesbian, and bisexual residents and deprives them of the right to marry based solely on their sexual orientation and/or sex.

This exclusion from marriage and relegation to second-class status inflicts serious and irreparable harms upon Plaintiffs and other same-sex couples and their children. Plaintiffs are not married and wish to marry for the same reasons as different-sex couples: to publicly declare their love and commitment before their family, friends, and community, and to give one another and any children that they may raise in the future, the security and legal protections that marriage provides. Plaintiffs seek the freedom to marry the one unique and irreplaceable person each loves, and thereby to assume the responsibilities and obtain the
myriad protections, obligations, and benefits conferred upon married couples and upon their children under Guam and federal law.

Because the freedom to marry is one of the vital personal rights central to the orderly pursuit of happiness, Plaintiffs seek equal access to the freedom to marry to eliminate the myriad serious harms inflicted on Plaintiffs and their families by the Marriage Ban and Defendants' enforcement of it Plaintiffs seek equal access to the freedom to marry as the only means to eliminate the myriad harms inflicted upon them and other same-sex couples by GovGuam's Marriage Ban and Defendants' enforcement of it. ..."

"Plaintiffs are productive, contributing citizens who support their families and nurture their children, but must do so without the same dignity and respect afforded by the Territory to other families through access to the universally celebrated status of marriage. GovGuam's exclusion of Plaintiffs from marriage subjects Plaintiffs to legal vulnerability and related stress, while depriving them and their children of equal dignity and security. GovGuam sends a purposeful message that the Territory views lesbians and gay men and their children as second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, and support that different-sex spouses and their family enjoy. ..."

"Barring same-sex couples from marriage disqualifies them from critically important rights and responsibilities under Guam law that different-sex couples rely upon to protect one another and themselves, to secure their commitment to each other, and to safeguard their families. Marriage is the only route to access many rights and responsibilities; for others, marriage is the least complex and least expensive route. ..."

"Excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage will not make children of different-sex spouses more secure. Different-sex spouses' children will continue to enjoy the benefits that flow from their parents' marriage, regardless of whether same-sex couples are permitted to marry.

Excluding same-sex couples from marriage does, however, harm same-sex couples' children, including by branding their families as inferior or less deserving of respect, and by encouraging private bias and discrimination.

GovGuam's interest in the welfare of children of lesbian and gay parents is as great as its interest in the welfare of any other children. The family security that comes from GovGuam's official recognition and support is no less important for same-sex parents and their children than it is for different-sex parents and their children. ... "

"GovGuam's marriage ban, and Defendants' actions to enforce it, denies same-sex couples equal dignity and respect and relegates them to a separate-and-unequal status that is demonstrably inferior. GovGuam's marriage ban brands lesbians and gay men and their children as second-class citizens through a message of government-imposed stigma and causes private bias and discrimination. GovGuam's marriage ban and Defendants' actions reflect moral disapproval and antipathy toward lesbians and gay men. ..."

"GovGuam will incur little to no burden in allowing same-sex couples to marry and in recognizing the valid marriages of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions on the same terms as different-sex couples, whereas the hardship for Plaintiffs of being denied equal treatment and relegated to a demonstrably inferior relationship status is severe, subjecting them to an irreparable denial of their constitutional rights. The balance of hardships thus tips strongly in favor of Plaintiffs. 5

The full 24 page is, in the opinion of this webmaster, extremely well written in clear language that is easily understood by persons unskilled in the law. Many people would benefit from reading it in full. 5

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Same-sex marriage in Guam," Wikipedia, as on 2015-APR-15, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  2. "Chapter 3. The Contract of Marriage". Guam Code Annotated. at: http://www.guamcourts.org/
  3. "Guam governor backs same-sex vote," BBC News, 2015-APR-16, at: http://www.bbc.com/
  4. An article about this poll was at the Pacific Daily News web site on http://www.guampdn.com. However it is no longer online.
  5. Kathleem Aguero & Loretta Pangelinan v. Eddie Baza Calvo & Carolyn Garrido, District Court of Guam, 2015-APR-13, at: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/

Site navigation:

Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > Same-sex marriage > SSM Menu > Guam > here

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality> Same-sex marriage > SSM Menu> Guam > here

Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 2015-APR-16
Last updated 2015-JUN-10
Author: Bruce A Robinson
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