Guam AG clears the way for same-sex marriages - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Guam AG clears the way for same-sex marriages

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Guam was thrust into the national spotlight earlier today as the attorney general of Guam issued a controversial opinion that will allow for same-sex marriages on Guam.

Guam apparently is the first United States territory that will allow same-sex couples to apply for a marriage license. This follows a legal opinion issued today by Attorney General of Guam Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson. She said, "Guam falls within the judiciary purview of the 9th Circuit and I find that the holding in the case of Latta v. Otter to be controlling law rendering Guam statute prohibiting same gender marriage as unenforceable."

In October 2014 the 9th Circuit ruled that state bans on marriages by persons of the same gender are unconstitutional. Earlier this week Loretta Pangelinan and Kathleen Aguero through their attorneys filed a lawsuit filed in federal court to challenge Guam's marriage laws. Last week the same-sex couple was denied the opportunity to file for a marriage license.

According to the AG's opinion she has advised the Department of Public Health to immediately begin processing marriage license applications from couples of similar gender. This appears to be a change in her original position last week when she issued a statement that Public Health was acting in accordance with local law, when it rejected Aguero and Pangelinan's attempt to apply for a license.

Public Health dealth Healthirector James Gillan told KUAM News at the time the decision was based on assistance from the AG's Office, saying, "We asked for some assistance from the Attorney General's Office - we have an opinion here that was written several years ago anyway that also speaks to marriage as that being between again persons of the opposite sex." Barrett-Anderson notes, "I differ; what had occurred is based on my knowledge that the two ladies were going to file. I did inform the director of the filing I was hoping that the director would then come back to me for some assistance and some discussion. That did not occur."

The AG added that at the time she had not fully read the 9th Circuit case, but was aware that marriage equality has been an issue throughout the nation for the last two years.

Despite today's AG opinion, Attorney Bill Pesch, who represents Aguero and Pangelinan, says ultimately it's up to Governor Eddie Calvo. "While we are extremely pleased with the attorney general's position on this matter, we are cautiously optimistic that the governor is going to come around as well," the lawyer said. Attorney Pesch says that at this point they are still proceeding with their lawsuit in federal court.

Meanwhile in a release from Aguero and Pangelinan, they applaud the Attorney General's Office for "Doing the right thing in advising the government to immediately issue marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples." The couple also expressed disappointment in Governor Calvo, stating that "the governor according to unconfirmed news reports, will not follow the advice of the attorney general."

Attorney Pesch stated, "We had seen something there was very confusing press in the first couple of minutes, I can't remember the source, but we had seen that was a possibility. But at this point I haven't seen anything official from the Governor's Office."

Late today the Calvo Administraiton issued a press release on the matter, stating the governor respects the opinion by the AG. He adds his legal team is reviewing it and conducting further research. "This is a significant decision," the statement read. "And the governor and lieutenant governor want to make sure they are thoroughly informed. According to the media release it brings to light the circuit courts split.

Adelup references that the 6th Circuit appeal asks the question of whether the definition of marriage should be defined by the federal courts or by local legislatures. Governor Calvo has stated that the Guam Legislature enacted law that defines marriage for our people.

While this current legal issue is being reviewed, if it is the will of the people of Guam to make same-sex marriage legal on Guam, then the Guam Legislature, can take action to change the law, or a referendum can be held giving the people of Guam a direct voice in this issue.
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