Same-sex marriage in Guam

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Legal status of
same-sex relationships
  1. May be registered in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten
  2. Licensed in most counties, but not recognized by the state of Kansas
  3. Licensed in the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and Jackson County
  4. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage
  5. Only if married when same-sex marriage was legal in the state

*Not yet in effect

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Guam, an overseas territory of the United States, does not mention marriage in its equivalent of a constitution, the Guam Organic Act of 1950. Guam's marriage statute does not specify the sex of the parties to a marriage, but a 1994 law specifying the responsibilities of the Guam department of Public Health defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Guam's statutes say that it recognizes same-sex marriages legally performed outside of the territory, but there is no evidence that has been applied to a same-sex marriage.

Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson ordered Guam officials to begin licensing same-sex marriages on April 15, 2015, which would have made Guam the first U.S. territory to legalize same-sex marriage. In response, Governor Eddie Calvo said the question of marriage should be addressed by the Legislature or voters of Guam, and the acting head of the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services said his office would not accept applications from same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses for the time being.

Marriage statutes[edit]

Guam's statutes do not specify the sex of the parties to a marriage, but their prohibition on marriage "between uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews" show they anticipate only different-sex marriages. The parties "must declare in the presence of the person solemnizing the marriage that they take each other as husband and wife." With respect to marriages from other jurisdictions, the statues say:[1]

All marriages contracted outside of the territory of Guam, which would be valid by the laws of the country in which the same were contracted, are valid in the territory of Guam.

A law dating from 1994, which set standards and procedures for the Guam Department of Public Health, includes this definition:[2][3]

Marriage means the legal union of persons of opposite sex. The legality of the union may be established by civil or religious regulations, as recognized by the laws of Guam.

Federal courts in Guam are subject to the precedents set in 2014 by the decisions of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Latta v. Otter and Sevcik v. Sandoval, which found Idaho's and Nevada's denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples unconstitutional.

Proposed legislation[edit]

After Vermont enacted same-sex marriage legislation, the 27th Guam Youth Congress, an advisory body which submits legislation to committees of the Legislature of Guam, forwarded a bill to legalize civil unions to the legislature, with the bill being supported by Speaker Derick Baza Hills.

A similar measure failed in the 25th Guam Youth Congress by just one vote. Citing recent rulings in the courts such as the unanimous decision overturning the ban on same-sex marriage in Iowa, Hills later commented that the courts would be essential to make sure we "allow for equal rights"[4] he stated in a press release. While same-sex marriage is currently not being considered in Guam, Hills made sure to point out that "We do have advocates in the Legislature [who support same-sex civil unions] ... I do feel and know that there are senators comfortable supporting this legislation," Hills said. Hills called on the Legislature of Guam to introduce legislation to create such unions, though the extent of rights to be granted is unknown.[4]

On June 3, 2009, Vice-Speaker BJ Cruz introduced Bill No. 138, which would establish same-sex civil unions containing all the rights and benefits of civil marriage in Guam.[5] The bill was heavily condemned by the Catholic Church.[6] The bill did not get sufficient votes to make it to the session floor.[7]

Due to opposition to the bill within the religious community, Bill 212 was introduced by proponents of same-sex unions should the civil union bill fail to pass. The bill mirrors the bill passed in Hawaii that provided significantly limited rights. The bill is known as a "Designated Beneficiary Agreement," and unlike the civil union bill, would be open for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.[8]

Licensing same-sex marriage[edit]

On April 8, 2015, lesbian couple were refused a marriage license at the Department of Public Health and Social Services. The next day the editorial board of the Guam Pacific Daily News endorsed the legalization of same-sex marriage in Guam.[9] Attorney-General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson endorsed the Department's refusal, but when later asked if Guam law violated the Fourteenth Amendment said: "Good question. I can't comment."[10] The couple filed a lawsuit challenging the territory's refusal to grant then a marriage license, Aguro v. Calvo, in the District Court of Guam on April 13.[11]

On April 15, Barrett-Anderson issued a directive to the Department of Public Health and Social Services to immediately process applications from same-sex couples for marriage licenses, instructing that same-sex applicants be treated "with dignity and equality under the Constitution". She cited the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Latta v. Otter, which is controlling precedent in federal courts in Guam.[12] However, Governor Eddie Calvo responded the next day by questioning the legal basis for Barrett-Anderson's memorandum. He suggested same-sex marriage licensing should wait until the Supreme Court ruled on a case before it.[13]

On May 8, Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, Chief Judge of Guam District Court, denied the defendants' request to delay proceedings pending action by the U.S. Supreme Court in related cases. Noting they are represented by a Special Assistant Attorney General appointed on May 1, he set a briefing schedule and scheduled a hearing for June 5.[14]

Public opinion[edit]

In a 2009 poll conducted by Pacific Daily News, 26% of Guamanians supported same-sex marriage, 27% supported same-sex domestic partnerships or civil unions, and 29% of responders said that there should be no legal recognition of same-sex relationships in Guam.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chapter 3. The Contract of Marriage" (PDF). Guam Code Annotated. Compiler of Laws, Supreme Court of Guam. Retrieved November 2, 2014. 
  2. ^ Raymundo, Shawn (April 17, 2015). "1994 law central to marriage debate". Guam Pacific Daily News. Retrieved April 16, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Chapter 3. Public Health and Social Services" (PDF). Guam Code Annotated. Compiler of Laws, Supreme Court of Guam. Retrieved November 2, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Lee, Yvonne S. (April 10, 2009). "Youth congress pass bill to legalize same sex civil unions". Pacific Daily News. Retrieved April 23, 2009. [dead link]
  5. ^ Same-sex civil unions proposed
  6. ^ "Archbishop Apuron Responds To Senator Cruz's Same Sex Civil Union Bill". 
  7. ^ Aguon, Mindy (February 24, 2011). "Gay community hopeful for Guam civil unions". Kuam News. Retrieved August 27, 2013. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Rectify: Legalizing same-sex marriage is about justice and equality". Guam Pacific Daily News. April 9, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Guam AG says she'll answer questions on same-sex marriage at 'a later time'". Guam Pacific Daily News. April 10, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Complaint". Scribd,com. District Court of Guam. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Guam Attorney General Orders Gay Marriage to Move Forward". New York Times. Associated Press. April 15, 2015. Retrieved April 16, 2015. 
  13. ^ Salas Matanane, Sabrina (April 17, 2015). "Governor Calvo needs more time on same-sex marriage". KUAM. Retrieved May 22, 2015. 
  14. ^ Daly, Kyle (May 8, 2015). "Judge grants extension in Guam gay marriage case, but denies stay". Guam Pacific Daily News. Retrieved May 9, 2015. 
  15. ^[dead link]

External links[edit]