HAGATNA, Guam (AP) – A lawsuit challenging Guam’s same-sex marriage ban will move forward later this month after a federal judge decided against postponing it until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on gay nuptials this summer.
But U.S. District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood gave Guam’s governor and the department that denied a lesbian couple a marriage license some extra time to work with a private attorney, The Pacific Daily News reported Friday.
That’s because Guam’s attorney general has taken a different position from Gov. Eddie Calvo, saying the U.S. territory should issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson appointed a local attorney to defend Calvo and the Office of Vital Statistics registrar because she will not do so.
Loretta M. Pangelinan and Kathleen M. Aguero, both 28, sued April 13 after the registrar refused them a license because Guam law defines marriage as a union between two people of the opposite sex.
The couple based their lawsuit on a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in favor of same-sex marriage. The U.S. District Court of Guam falls under the 9th Circuit.
If Guam allows gay marriage, it would be the first U.S. territory to do so.
In a statement Friday, Calvo said he told his administration to prepare for two possible outcomes from the Supreme Court case: a ruling saying states have the right to define marriage, or one recognizing same-sex marriage as a fundamental right.
If it’s the former, discussion on the matter likely will continue in the Guam, the governor said.
“I believe it will open up the opportunity for further conversation so that the true will of the people can be reflected in our laws,” Calvo said. “And as ardent a defender as I have been for our local law as currently written, I will be as ardent in defending any new law, if that is the will of the people.”
In his statement, the governor also took a jab at another civil rights issue – the right of island citizens to be able to vote for president.
He said the island’s same-sex marriage law is “being challenged by federal judges that were nominated by a U.S. president and confirmed by a U.S. Senate, none of whom were elected through a process that included the people of Guam.”
Guam residents are U.S. citizens, but they don’t have the right to cast ballots for president. The territory elects a delegate to the U.S. House, but the delegate may not vote on legislation. Guam has no representation in the U.S. Senate.