HAGATNA, Guam — A federal judge’s ruling has made Guam the first U.S. territory to recognize gay marriage, leading the governor who opposed the weddings to declare that the island will accept marriage license applications from same-sex couples.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Frances M. Tydingco-Gatewood issued the decision to a packed courtroom after a hearing Friday local time, saying the territory’s ban violated a gay couple’s constitutional rights to equal protection under the law.
The ruling goes into effect Tuesday morning, when same-sex couples can begin applying for marriage licenses.
Gov. Eddie Calvo previously said a decision was impractical when the Supreme Court was expected to rule on the issue this month. But he said after the District Court ruling that “I have a solemn duty to uphold the law.”
“To the proponents and opponents alike, I ask that we all come together despite our differences of opinion, united in our common love of Guam and of each other,” Calvo said in a news release.
The ruling came after Loretta M. Pangelinan, 28, and Kathleen M. Aguero, 29, sued in April after they were denied a marriage license.
“We are delighted with the news,” Aguero said in a news release. “Actually, we’ve been waiting for nearly eight years to marry. We’re so happy that the time has finally come.”
The women plan to wed June 20, said their attorney, R. Todd Thompson.
They based their lawsuit on a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision last year in favor of same-sex marriage. The U.S. District Court of Guam falls under the 9th Circuit.
Attorneys for the Guam plaintiffs had argued the territory must fall in line with the 9th Circuit decision and accept marriage license applications unless the U.S. Supreme Court rules otherwise. Currently, gay couples can marry in 36 states, the District of Columbia and now, Guam.
Guam Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson directed officials in April to process gay couples’ marriage license applications based on the 9th Circuit decision, but they refused with support from the governor.
She appointed an attorney to represent Calvo and the Office of Vital Statistics registrar because they didn’t agree on the lawsuit.
“Equality under our Constitution prevailed today,” Barrett-Anderson said after the ruling.
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Attorney Michael Phillips, who represented Calvo and Territorial Registrar Carolyn Garrido, said the officials are going to comply with the ruling.
“It’s probably the only case in history where you have a decision one way or another and then a final decision coming within weeks – literally within weeks,” Phillips said, referring to the expected Supreme Court ruling.
About 80 percent of Guam residents are Catholic. Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron said in a statement that the ruling “is not only a defeat for Christian principles, but a defeat for our island and the whole of humanity.”