Same-sex couple seeks the freedom to marry in Guam

Updated 4/15 with news from the Guam Attorney General on the potential of marriage licenses being issued in Guam as soon as this week

On Tuesday, April 7, a same-sex couple in Guam applied for a marriage license in the United States territory, but the couple -  Loretta Pangelinan and Kathleen Aguero, who have been together for nine years - were turned away without recieving a license.

Just days later, the couple filed a legal case to fight for their freedom to marry in the territory. Although the United States Supreme Court will review the question of the freedom to marry this spring, with a ruling expected by late summer, the couple's attorney, R. Todd Thomspon explained that they would file the lawsuit, arguing that Guam must issue marriage licenses per a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals from last fall. "They want equality now, not later," he said.

The two women became the first same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license in the territory. The department director of the territory's Department of Public Health and Social Services said that he was sympathetic to the couple, but the law prevented him from providing them with a license.

On Wednesday, April 15, the Attorney General of Guam announced that same-sex couples should be issued marriage licenses in the territory. The Attorney General, Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson, said in a legal memo, "The Department is advised to treat all same gender marriage applicants with dignity and equality under the Constitution of our nation, and the ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals." reports that Leo Casil of the territory's public health department, shortly after clarified that a decision will be made on the freedom to marry in Guam by Friday. He said, “From my side, I just received a letter. It’s not a legal opinion. It’s a letter urging to issue the marriage licenses from the attorney general.”

Last week, Freedom to Marry spoke with Kathleen and Loretta about their decade-long relationship. They said, "We accept each other's flaws, and look forward to every day living and loving one another. We're on such a small island, one not many are aware of. We, too, fight everyday for things a lot of people take for granted, like equality and the right to marry the one they love."

Guam falls under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit Court in the United States. A marriage lawsuit has been filed in only one other territory of the United States, Puerto Rico, which falls under the 1st Circuit. In October of 2014, a District Court Judge in Puerto Rico ruled against the freedom to marry, but the Puerto Rican government has since announced that it would cease to defend the territory's ban on marriage between same-sex couples. Earlier this week, the 1st Circuit said it would not hear the case until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the freedom to marry this summer.