A guide to the gay marriage dispute in US territory of Guam

AP News
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Posted: Apr 16, 2015 10:14 AM
A guide to the gay marriage dispute in US territory of Guam

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — Guam's attorney general and governor are at odds over whether same-sex couples should be allowed to wed, a change that would make it the first U.S. territory to allow gay marriage.

The territory's top law enforcement officer directed officials Wednesday to begin processing marriage license applications from same-sex couples. But the governor said he wanted to study the issue further, and the public health director said he wouldn't accept the applications.

Here's the latest on gay marriage in Guam:

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IS GAY MARRIAGE LEGAL OR NOT?

The U.S. District Court of Guam falls under the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which has ruled in favor of gay marriage.

Guam Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson said in her directive that the public health department should process marriage license applications from gay couples based on the 9th Circuit's decision in October finding state bans on gay marriage unconstitutional.

But acting Public Health Director Leo Casil said his office won't accept applications from same-sex couples "until further notice," the Pacific Daily News newspaper on Guam reported.

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WHERE DOES THE GOVERNOR STAND?

Gov. Eddie Calvo said he respects the attorney general's view but noted that the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld state bans on same-sex marriages. The 6th Circuit covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, while Guam falls under the 9th Circuit.

Calvo also said the U.S. Supreme Court will soon hear oral arguments on gay marriage. He suggested Guam lawmakers could pass a law allowing gay marriage, or voters could do so in a referendum, "if it is the will of the people of Guam to make same-sex marriage legal."

Guam Legislature Vice Speaker BJ Cruz said Calvo "has never been in favor of same-gender marriage." Cruz said the governor would "veto whatever bill we pass."

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WHO ARE THE KEY FIGURES?

Guam's attorney general is elected, not appointed by the governor. Barrett-Anderson previously served in the Guam Legislature and was a Superior Court judge in Guam for 14 years.

Calvo, the governor, was elected in 2010. The former business executive has served five terms in the Guam Senate. His official biography said, "He is a man of deep faith, guided more by Christian values than any rule of politics." He attends Mass at a Roman Catholic church in the territory's capital.

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HOW IS GUAM DIFFERENT FROM ALABAMA?

The case has echoes of the situation in Alabama. A federal judge ordered an Alabama probate judge to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the state Supreme Court told all probate judges to refuse to give out the licenses. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to settle the issue later this year. Guam's case is different in that no judge has weighed in.

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OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES

If Guam allows gay marriage, it would be the first U.S. territory to do so. A lawsuit challenging a Puerto Rico law defining marriage as between a man and a woman has been put on hold pending a ruling by the Supreme Court. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said Tuesday that it will await that decision before scheduling oral arguments in the Puerto Rico case.

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NEXT STEPS

A lesbian couple will move forward with their lawsuit given the resistance to the attorney general's directive by the governor and health department, their lawyer said.

Loretta M. Pangelinan and Kathleen M. Aguero sued Monday in U.S. District Court in Guam after their marriage application was refused last week. The couple, both 28, say they are challenging "the discriminatory denial of their freedom to marry" in Guam.

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Associated Press writer Audrey McAvoy reported from Honolulu.