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Lesbian couple denied marriage license

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At the end of this month the Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments to determine whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. But for a Guam couple, however they're ready to fight now for their right to join in matrimony, but they were quickly rejected by the Government of Guam. And now their hopes of walking down the aisle appear to be turning into walk into a courtroom to fight for their love.

Together for over nine years, Loretta Pangelinan and Kathleen Guerrero want what many other people already have: the right to marry the one they love. Both are foster parents to three children and want to marry on Guam with their families present. So they did what any other couple ready to make a commitment would do - apply for a marriage license at the Department of Public Health. This is the first time a same-sex couple has ever tried to apply for a marriage license, but their attempt was quickly shot down, as Public Health would not accept their marriage license application.

According to the couple's attorneys, unlike other jurisdictions Guam has no statute that specifically bans same-sex marriages. In fact, they argue Guam's marriage laws are essentially gender-neutral. Public Health director James Gillan doesn't agree, saying, "The attorneys that representing this couple are saying that the laws related to marriage are not clear we are not talking about marriage here. We are talking about the issuance of a marriage license - there is a distinction and before you can even address the issue of same-sex marriage, you're going to have to address that part of 10 GCA government code that says that a license can only be issued to members of the opposite sex."

Gillan adds that they have sought guidance from the Attorney General's Office and have an opinion from that agency that speaks to marriage being between two individuals of the opposite sex. The couple's attorneys, Bill Pesch and Todd Thompson, say however Gillan needs to do better research. "It is a question of equal rights and whether you are straight or gay you have equal rights, and so he points to an opinion that came down several years ago much has happened just within the last twelve months, so it will not stand it will not stand these two will get married here in Guam in a very short period of time," asserted Pesch.

"I am disappointed that if he actually spoke to the attorney general, that the attorney general didn't update him as far as the laws are concerned I hope she has ample opportunity now to sit down and say look I think we need to rethink this and probably better accept their application and process it that's our hope."

Despite being turned away, Pangelinan and Guerrero aren't giving up and will fight not just for themselves, but all same-sex couples on Guam. Pangelinan said, "It is okay to love who you love regardless of your sexual orientation; it has nothing to do with anything, but how you feel about the person and just keep trying. Never give up."

Late this afternoon the couple's attorneys issued a statement, Todd Thompon said they were of course disappointed but not surprised by Public Health's actions.  "The clerk refused to accept the license application, relying on a six year-old opinion letter from the acting attorney general of Guam and a provision of the Guam Code Annotated purporting to define marriage as "the legal union of persons of the opposite sex."


Thompson added that the agency's refusal to even accept the application treats the couple as second-class citizens and draws a very clear legal line in the sand."  He added that the department's reliance that Guam law which purports to define marriage as a 'legal union of persons of the opposite sex' is entirely misplaced. This provision unmistakably discriminates against same-sex couples. Similar state statutes and constitutional provisions have been struck down again and again by state and federal courts across the nation as denying same-sex couples the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law." "This will not stand."


Co-counsel Bill Pesch expressed his hope that Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson will  now intervene on the side of legal reason. " 

Meanwhile Gillan did tell KUAM that it's up to local lawmakers to change the law. You may recall legislation was introduced in 2009 to allow for same-sex civil unions in Guam, however the bill introduced by Vice Speaker BJ Cruz never made it to session floor. The senator didn't push it any further because it lacked enough votes for passage.

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