The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage (aka gay
marriage) across the U.S. in its ruling of The Obergefell v. Hodges
case from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee.
Part 49: 2015-JULY:
Reactions of the Louisiana Supreme
Court to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling.
American Samoa resists marriage equality.
We use the term "gay marriage."to represent the marriage of two persons of
the same sex.
We prefer "Same-sex marriage," a more inclusive term that
includes spouses with a bisexual sexual orientation, but it would make this web
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.
"LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.
2015-JUL-07: Reactions within the Louisiana Supreme Court to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell:
The Louisiana Supreme Court issued a News Release. 1 It declared that the U.S. Supreme Court's (SCOTUS's) decision requires that same-sex marriages are to be recognized within the state whether solemnized in the state or elsewhere. Their ruling also allows same-sex married spouses to adopt each other's children.
Several of the Justices added their own comments about the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling:
Justice Jeanette Theriot Knoll wrote that she concurred with the SCOTUS ruling:
"... because I am constrained to follow the rule of law set forth by a majority of the nine lawyers appointed to the United States Supreme Court."
She continued by expressing:
".. my views concerning the horrific impact these five lawyers have made on the democratic rights of the American people to define marriage. [Their decision was] a complete and unnecessary insult to the people of Louisiana. ..."
"Unilaterally, these five lawyers took for themselves a question the Constitution expressly leaves to the people and about which the people have been in open debate—the true democratic process. This is not a constitutionally-mandated decision, but a super-legislative imposition of the majority’s will over the solemn expression of the people evidenced in their state constitutional definitions of marriage. ..."
[T]he five unelected judges’ declaration that the right to marry whomever one chooses is a fundamental right is a mockery of those rights explicitly enumerated in our Bill of Rights. Simply stated, it is a legal fiction imposed upon the entirety of this nation because these five people think it should be. No one contests the historical definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman or its social necessity to protect the product of their physical union, i.e., children. While I have many friends in same-sex relationships, I respectfully would not bestow upon them legal rights of marriage as having a child of their physical union is literally impossible. ..."
"It is a sad day in America when five lawyers beholden to none and appointed for life can rob the people of their democratic process, forcing so-called civil liberties regarding who can marry on all Americans when the issue was decided by the states as solemn expressions of the will of the people. I wholeheartedly disagree and find that, rather than a triumph of constitutionalism, the opinion of these five lawyers is an utter travesty as is my constrained adherence to their “law of the land” enacted not by the will of the American people but by five judicial activists. 2
Webmaster's note: [bias alert]
If Justice Knoll would deny marriage to a same-sex couple because they cannot conceive a child by sexual intercourse, then -- to be consistent -- she would have to deny marriage to any opposite-sex couple in which one or both spouses is infertile. There is no indication that she believes that.
It is important to realize that
it only takes one woman and a supply of donated semen to conceive a child through artificial insemination. This holds both for same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples. Also either type of couple can adopt and give a forever home to a child stuck in the foster care system.
Justice Jefferson Hughes III dissented. He argues that the Louisiana Supreme Court should ignore SCOTUS. He wrote:
"Judges instruct jurors every week not to surrender their honest convictions merely to reach agreement. I cannot do so now, and respectfully dissent. Marriage is not only for the parties. Its purpose is to provide children with a safe and stable environment in which to grow. It is the epitome of civilization. Its definition cannot be changed by legalisms. ..." 2
Justice J. Weimer also concurred, and wrote:
"The Louisiana Constitution is the foundation of our state’s system of laws, but both the Constitution of Louisiana and the codal and statutory provisions of Louisiana must yield to the United States Constitution as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court.
The apparent and rapid shift in public sentiment on the issue before us has been
profound. However, the role of the judiciary is not to weigh shifting public sentiment
at any given moment, but to be steadfast in following the law duly enacted by the
people and/or their representatives. Nevertheless, in a federal system, a state judge’s
obligation is to follow the law as dictated by a majority of the United States Supreme
Court. Whether or not this matter should be a judicial decision by the federal or the
state judiciary or an issue resolved by legislatures at the state level is ultimately at the
heart of the matter and was vigorously debated by the majority and dissenting justices
in the 5-4 decision rendered in Obergefell v. Hodges. The ramifications of this decision will likely continue to resonate." 2
Map of the Pacific Ocean with American Samoa circled.
2015-JUL-: Resistance to same-sex marriage in American Samoa:
Along with the United States' 50 states, and the District of Columbia, there are also 16 territories:
- The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Atlantic Ocean,
- Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and United States Samoa in the Pacific, and
- 16 uninhabited islands.
American Samoa is referred to as an "unincorporated unorganized territory" of the United States. It is located in the South Pacific Ocean East of Australia and southeast of Samoa. 3
It is shown circled in red in this image. Its motto is "Samoa, Let God be first." 3 American Samoa has a population estimated at 57,345, and an area of about 200 sq. km. or 77 square miles. This is slightly larger that the District of Columbia. The population is close to 100% Christian with conservative denominations dominating.
Of the five main U.S. territories all but American Samoa have either attained marriage equality or are planning to do so in the near future. The only holdout is American Samoa. 4
Attorney General of American Samoa, Talauega Eleasalo Ale, said:
"We’re still reviewing the [SCOTUS] decision to determine its applicability to American Samoa, and I have no specific comments at this time." 5
The marriage statutes in the territory assume that only opposite-sex couples may marry. Title 42 deals with domestic relations. Chapter 01 to marriage.
"42.0101 Requisites of valid marriage.
To enter into a valid marriage contract:
(a) The parties must not be related to each other nearer than the fourth degree of consanguinity.
(b) The male shall be at least 18 years of age and the female at least 14 years of age.
(c) If the female is less than 18 years of age, she must have the consent of one of her parents or her guardian." 7
It appears that only a minor change would be needed to permit same-sex marriage: changing "The male" to "A male" and "the female" to "a female."
Professor Rose Cuison Villazor at the University of California Davis law school, specializes in territorial law. She said:
It should be unquestioned. The Supreme Court’s decision was pretty strong. ... I would think there are cultural barriers to begin with. The AG might present some other legal and social barriers, too." 6
Professor Chimene Keitner, at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law is another expert on territorial status issues. She said that what would be required would be:
"... plaintiffs who have been denied the right to marry and are willing to take a public position on that and challenge their inability to marry. Plaintiffs could also be those who were married elsewhere and want the marriage recognized in American Samoa." 6
Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a staff attorney for the equality group Lambda Legal said that gay marriage:
"... is a question of individual right, individual liberty." 6
Justice Kennedy who wrote the majority report for SCOTUS described the right of same-sex couples to marry as fundamental right.
Lambda Legal has asked any American Samoan same-sex couple, should they come forward and be denied a marriage license, to contact them or the American Civil Liberties Union, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, or the National Center for Lesbian Rights immediately for assistance.
In the meantime, the Territorial administration is considering whether to allow gay marriages to be solemnized in American Samoa. However, it seems that one part of the High Court's ruling does apply in the Territory. The Government of American Samoa must recognize the marriage of same-sex couples who have been married in another state, territory, or the District of Columbia and returned or moved to American Samoa.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "News Release #033," Supreme Court of Louisiana, 2015-JUL-07, at: http://www.lasc.org/opinions/2015/14CA2090.opn.pdf
- Mark Joseph Stern, "Louisiana Supreme Court Justices Blast “Horrific” Marriage Equality Decision," Slate, 2015-JUL-08, at: http://www.slate.com/
- "American Samoa," Wikipedia, 2015-JUL-11, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
- Mark Joseph Stern, "Obergefell Will Bring Marriage Equality to U.S. Territories. That Wasn’t a Sure Thing. Slate, 2015-JUL-09, at: http://www.slate.com/
- Fili Sagapolutele, "US territory reviews gay marriage ruling," Boston Globe, 2015-JUL-11, at: https://www.bostonglobe.com/
- Fili Sagapolutele, "American Samoa Questions If Gay Marriage Ruling Applies To Territory," Huffington Post, 2015-JUL-10, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
- "Chapter 01 - Marriage," American Samoa Bar Association, 2011, at: http://www.asbar.org/
How you may have arrived here:
Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2015-JUL-12
Latest update: 2015-JUL-23
Author: B.A. Robinson