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Guam becomes first U.S. territory allowing gay marriage

By
Andrew V. Pestano
The U.S. territory of Guam has a population of about 165,000 and is one of five insular territories including American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. File Photo by violetblue/Shutterstock.
The U.S. territory of Guam has a population of about 165,000 and is one of five insular territories including American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. File Photo by violetblue/Shutterstock.

HAGATNA, Guam, April 15 (UPI) -- Guam has become the first U.S. territory to allow gay marriage after its attorney general ordered marriage licenses to be issued immediately to same-sex couples.

Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson's decision came on Wednesday, two days after a lesbian couple filed a lawsuit, because they were prohibited from submitting an application for a license to get married.

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"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," Barrett-Anderson said in a legal memorandum to the acting director of Guam's Department of Public Health and Social Services.

The appeals court decision, that Barrett-Anderson cited as the basis for her decision, was delivered in October.

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"While the [Public Health] Department was acting in accordance with Guam law, the Ninth Circuit's recent decision has rendered Guam's marriage statute legally unenforceable until such time that the Supreme Court of the United States alters the holding of the Ninth Circuit of Appeals," she said in the memo.

Guam is the first of four other insular territories -- American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands -- to allow same-sex marriage.

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Todd Thompson, lawyer for the lesbian couple who filed the lawsuit, released a statement.

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"Obviously I'm encouraged by what I've heard but I'm cautious [whether public health] will actually comply with the attorney general's direction," he said.

Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo said the lawsuit is "indefensible" and stated Guam's previous marriage law should stay in effect until the Supreme Court decision, according to Barrett-Anderson.

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