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Guam gay/lesbian community hopeful

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - A federal appeals court has ruled California's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. But gay and lesbian couples still have to wait before they can tie the knot. The ruling has the island's gay and lesbian community optimistic that Guam may one day allow same-sex civil unions.

People outside the federal courthouse in San Francisco cheered and hugged after judges ruled California's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Stuart Gafney, a supporter of same-sex marriage said, "I'm overjoyed. We already knew in our hearts it violated the law of love." In a two-to-one decision the 9th U.S. Circuit Appeals Court upheld a lower court's ruling that Proposition 8 violates the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples by denying them the right to civil unions.

Plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier have been fighting to over turn the ban, as the former said, "It is not OK to take something away from someone based on who they are."

But 52 percent of voters in California put a stop to same sex weddings when they backed Proposition 8. With the 9th Circuit's ruling finding the ban unconstitutional, Guam's gay community expressed elation but they understand the decision is not the final word on the matter.

Local attorney Bill Pesch says wednesday's ruling "represents yet one more nail in the coffin of discrimination against gays, lesbians, and transgendered individuals." He noted that there is still a long way to go to achieve equality but great strides have been made in the past decade as six states grant same-sex marriages and six states recognize same-sex civil unions.

While legislation was introduced to allow same-sex civil unions, the bill never even made it to the legislative floor, leaving some like Former Guam Alternative Lifestyles secretary and Toto resident Steven Torres doubtful that Guam will ever allow the unions. He said, "One, I wouldn't know because we don't have that option here on the island. I mean, in my honest opinion the island is not ready for it due to the culture that surrounds the island and the diverse community that we have from different parts of the world."

Attorney Pesch, however, is optimistic that Guam will soon follow the trend in supporting equal rights over what he calls "religious hypocrisy", and he anxiously awaits the day when the entire American political family, including Guam, live up to the time-honored ideals of equality by safeguarding the right to love whomever one chooses and to support families whatever their composition.

While the legal fight is far from over as Proposition 8 sponsors have promised to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, for now, same-sex marriages are on hold in California until the legal battle plays out.

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