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

Part 4 of 5:
From late 2015-APR until JUN-04: SSM student
debate held in the Northern Mariana Islands
Case scheduled in U.S. District Court for Guam.

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This topic is a continuation of the previous essay

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LGBT symbol2015-APR-28: Discussion about same-sex marriage In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI):

Since 1975, CNMI has been an American territory similar to Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa. The Territories of CNMI and Guam together include all 16 of the Mariana Islands.

CNMI Attorney General Edward Manibusan is sponsoring the Attorney General's Cup Speech Competition in which students from eight high schools will discuss same-sex marriage. During a press conference on APR-22. Manibusan said that this is a fast-evolving and contentious issue in the CNMI. He said:

"I am looking forward to hearing the students speak on the issue."

Chief Justice Alexandro Castro, who founded the Attorney General's Cup, said that same-sex marriage is a:

"... boiling hot [issue] ... We would like to hear from the students. We want to know what they think. We are getting into the minds of the future leaders of the commonwealth."

The proceedings were open to the public and a video was broadcast over the Guam PBS station. 1

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2015-MAY-08: Hearing in Guam lawsuit was scheduled, with the ruling expected to be delayed:

Plaintiffs Kathleen M. Aguero and Loretta M. Pangelinan had filed a lawsuit after having been refused a marriage license in April at Guam's Department of Public Health and Social Services. The case is called: Aguero v. Calvo. "Calvo" refers tothe main defendant, Governor Eddie Calvo (R).

A hearing was scheduled for JUN-04. Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood of the Unified Courts of Guam will preside. "Aguero" challenges Guam's ban on same-sex marriages. Judge Tydingco-Gatewood was initially expected to delay her actual ruling until after the U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision in the case Obergefell v. Hodges. 2

"Obergefell" involves appeals of 4 same-sex marriage cases, from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee. The high court is expected to issue its ruling in late 2015-JUN or early JUL. There is a distinct possibility that the Supreme Court's decision will legalize SSM across the entire country, repealing laws and state constitutions that ban same-sex couples marriage in Guam, the remaining four U.S. territories, and in the 13 states in the U.S. mainland that still restrict marriage to one woman and one man.

Such a decision would have many parallels with the 1967 decision of the High Court in Loving v. Virginia. This was the most recent case in which the Court had changed the definition of marriage across the U.S. In that case, the Court legalized interracial marriage.

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2015-MAY-14: Revision: Marriage lawsuit Aguero v. Calvo will proceed independently of the U.S. Supreme Court:

Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood is now expected to rule on the Guam SSM case ahead of U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the consolidated case Obergefell v. Hodges.

Normally, the state's case would be defended by the Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson. However, she has already stated her opposition to Guam's SSM ban and her legal opinion that it is unconstitutional. A local attorney has been appointed to defend the two defendants: Governor Eddie Calvo and the registrar of the Office of Vital Statistics.

Governor Calvo issued a statement on MAY-15 saying that if Guam's SSM ban survives the court challenge:

"I believe it will open up the opportunity for further conversation so that the true will of the people can be reflected in our laws. And as ardent a defender as I have been for our local law as currently written, I will be as ardent in defending any new law, if that is the will of the people." 3

He appears to be reflecting the view that Guam is a pure democracy. That is, it operates according to political system in which whatever laws a majority of the citizens want and whatever restrictions that they wish to place on groups like the LGBT community are automatically constitutional. This is a very common belief system among Republican politicians in the U.S. However, Guam, like the rest of the United States, is not a pure democracy. It is generally acknowledged to be a constitutional democracy. Laws and constitutional amendments passed by the voters in plebiscites or by the Government of Guam (GovGuam) in statutes are only valid and enforceable if they do not violate the U.S. Constitution. Many dozens of state and federal courts have determined during the previous 18 months that state bans on marriages by same-sex couples are unconstitutional.

It was widely believed that Guam's ban would be very unlikely to survive the challenge in federal court. Guam comes under the jurisdiction of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals . That Court has already ruled that the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution require same-sex couples to be eligible to marry, subject only to the same age and consanguinity restrictions that are placed on opposite-sex marrying couples. It would take a most unusual justification for the Circuit Court's ruling to not apply to Guam. No obvious reason has surfaced in Guam.

Hearings for motions for a Summary Judgment and a Preliminary Injunction were scheduled for the morning of Friday, JUN-05.

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2015-JUN-04: Governor Calvo posted a message on Facebook about the U.S. Supreme Court's upcoming ruling:

He wrote:

"If the Supreme Court leaves the decision to each state and territory's legislature, then will I look to the Legislature on whether they will redefine marriage. If the court orders a change to our law, I will order Public Health to revise the process for marriage applications immediately. ... The Court's decision is an opportunity to continue a healthy conversation about our humanity, civil rights, and our future. Changing or sustaining the law is simply the beginning of what's important for society. It is how we react to this decision and how we treat each other afterward that will set the course for our community." 4

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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Two books covering same-sex marriage from a positive and negative perspective:

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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. Raquel C. Bagnol, "8 schools to participate in AG’s Cup; topic this year is same-sex marri, Marianas Variety, 2015-APR-28, at:
  2. "Guam Same-Sex Marriage Case to Proceed This Month," ABC News, 2015-MAY-08, at:
  3. "Guam Gay Marriage Case Won't Wait For US High Court Ruling," Pride Source, 2015-MAY-14, at:
  4. Cameron I. Miculka, "Court strikes down Guam's same-sex marriage ban," USA Today, 2015-JUN-04, at:
  5. "Ruling makes Guam first US territory to legalize same-sex marriage," National Catholic Reporter, 2015-JUN-09, at:
  6. Rick Cruz, "First same-sex couple marries in Guam," USA Today, 2015-JUN-08, at:
  7. Grace Garces Bordallo, "First gay couple to marry in a US territory exchanges vows in Guam ceremony," Times Colonist, 2015-JUN-08, at:

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-26
Last updated 2015-JUN-11
Author: Bruce A Robinson
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