On April 8, 2015, the Government of Guam rejected a marriage license application submitted by two female applicants. TTA and the Guam Family Law Office jointly represented the women; and they took their case to court. On June 5, 2015, the District Court of Guam granted summary judgment, ruling in favor of TTA's clients and ushering in marriage equality in Guam. We are proud to have been a part of this important civil rights case, which made Guam the first jurisdiction in the region to recognize marriage equality, weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that right nationwide.
June 5, 2015
GUAM BECOMES FIRST U.S. TERRITORY
TO USHER IN MARRIAGE EQUALITY:
FEDERAL COURT ENJOINS ENFORCEMENT OF
DISCRIMINATORY GUAM MARRIAGE LAWS
Today, District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood heard Guam’s historic marriage equality case and issued a ruling permanently enjoining the enforcement of all laws in the U.S. Territory purporting to restrict marriage only to opposite-sex couples. The ruling means that Plaintiffs, Loretta M. Pangelinan and Kathleen M. Aguero (“Lo” and “Kate”), as well as all other qualified Guam same-sex couples, will be eligible to apply for a Guam marriage license on the same terms as opposite-sex couples beginning at 8:00 a.m., June 9, 2015.
Mitch Thompson, one of the three attorneys representing Kate and Lo in the federal court lawsuit, said: “Today’s ruling is a resounding victory for our clients and vindication for their right to equal treatment under the law.” He continued, “They came to us in April seeking to immediately exercise their right to marry. They didn’t want to wait for the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. Under today’s ruling, Lo and Kate got exactly what they have been hoping for. We want to thank the Court for her swift ruling on this issue.”
Lo and Kate were ecstatic about the court’s ruling. The couple has been patiently waiting since April 8th, the date their marriage application was rejected by the DPHSS’s Division of Vital Statistics, for word from the court if and when they’d be able to move forward with their marriage plans. Kate said: “We are delighted with the news. Actually, we’ve been waiting for nearly eight years to marry. We’re so happy that the time has finally come.” Lo added: “We want to thank all of the wonderful people here on Guam, and around the world, who have supported us during this struggle. Love and equality have prevailed!”
The ruling makes Guam the latest, and perhaps final jurisdiction to usher in marriage equality prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter, expected later this month. Same-sex couples lawfully married on Guam will likely stay married regardless of any future court decisions, as courts have uniformly refused to take marriage licenses away from couples lawfully married.
Todd Thompson, another one of Kate and Lo’s lawyers, stated: “When this suit was filed we said that 10 GCA Section 3207(h)—the Guam statute that purports to define marriage as a ‘legal union of persons of the opposite sex,’—was unconstitutional because similar state provisions had been struck down across the nation. We said ‘this will not stand,’ and today we were proven right.”
Co-counsel Bill Pesch, of the Guam Family Law Office stated: “We are extremely pleased with this outcome. Guam now joins 37 states in granting same-sex couples the right to marry. Not only has the law swung in the favor of the LGBT community on this issue, so too has public opinion throughout the nation. Governor Calvo had been admonished by Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson to comply with the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Latta v Otter. For whatever reason, he chose to ignore her sage advice. As a result, the government has needlessly expended taxpayers’ money defending an indefensible law. We are pleased that justice—and reason—have ultimately prevailed,” Pesch said.
Counsel for Lo and Kate would like to acknowledge and thank Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Esq., Staff Attorney of Lambda Legal, for the invaluable advice and assistance he and his organization provided in the struggle to bring marriage equality to Guam and give further thanks to the Human Rights Campaign for their support.
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