Public Health won't accept same-sex marriage applications - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Public Health won't accept same-sex marriage applications

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The Attorney General of Guam may have cleared the way for same-sex marriage on the island, but same gender couples will be met with a roadblock at the Department of Public Health.   

It appears that same-sex couples in Guam who thought they would be able to immediately apply for a marriage license will have to wait. While on Wednesday Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson issued a legal opinion that cleared the way for same-sex couples to apply for a marriage license at the Department of Public Health. The agency's acting director, Leo Casil, will not be following her advice for now.

He said, "First, I would like to clarify that apparently that wasn't a legal opinion it was just an advisement letter for us to do. And, of course, my response would be that the position of the governor stands until such time as research has been accomplished everything remains on hold."

The attorney general's opinion was based on an October 2014 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Latta v. Otter which held that state bans on marriages by persons of the same gender are unconstitutional. The AG added that Guam falls under the purview of the appellate court and hence Guam's laws on marriage are unenforceable earlier this week the governor was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed in the District Court of Guam by same-sex couple Loretta Pangelinan and Kathleen Aguero. The couple is challenging Guam's marriage laws.

According to the AG's Office, she will not be representing Governor Eddie Calvo in the litigation. "I informed the governor that my position is that the lawsuit is indefensible," she explained.

It appears Adelup is waiting for an opinion from the US Supreme Court, which is hearing a case from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on the issue of marriage equality. However, according to Pangelinan and Aguero's attorney Bill Pesch, Guam does not fall under the 6th Circuit's jurisdictions, but rather the 9th Circuit, as argued by the attorney general in her opinion. "We totally agree with her that is it indefensible - that is our argument as it stands now with the 9th Circuit," Pesch affirmed. "Our argument is that this matter has been decided by the 9th Circuit; Guam falls under the 9th Circuit and therefore must comply with the 9th Circuit unless and until the Supreme Court decides otherwise."

Pesch says that they will proceed with the federal lawsuit to prove this point adding that the Governor's Office really should not take any

longer at this point to make up its mind on the issue. Pesh adds the governor's suggestion to send the matter to referendum is inappropriate stating that according to the Supreme Court, "Fundamental rights cannot be submitted to vote they depend on the outcome of no elections."
Because of the AG's legal opinion and Public Health's continued refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Aguero and Pangelinan's attorneys today filed an amended request for an expedited ruling. According to the filing, "This court should put an end to the unnecessary suffering, humiliation, stigma and anxieties attendant to Guam's purported marriage ban on plaintiffs and all committed same sex couples and their children who want and need the security of marriage.

"Every conceivable justification for same-sex marriage bans has been considered and rejected by the 9th Circuit in the Latta case, thus it would be a colossal waste of judicial resources to prolong this case.  The only remedy the plaintiffs argue is for swift justice through an expedited ruling."

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