Guam has been really busy this year, bringing in a Forever 21, building its first Jack In The Box and now legalizing gay marriage.
Like most same-sex marriage legalization stories, this one begins with a couple, Loretta M. Pangelinan and Kathleen M. Aguero, who challenged the island’s laws on marriage after being denied a marital license.
Although the legal decision of removing the ban on gay marriage is still being reviewed, many of the island’s locals and political leaders are passionate about the issue.
There were a few moments when Guam shared the spotlight in international news, including the devastating Korean Air crash in the 1990s, huge tropical storms that almost wiped out entire villages and most recently, Chad DeSoto’s killing spree.
With world news portraying Guam as a nightmarish territory, it’s time Guam shares the positive news of legalizing same-sex marriage.
Two days after Pangelinan and Aguero argued their right to marry, the Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson instructed Guam’s officials to immediately begin processing same-sex applications.
Although Anderson’s actions were commendable, she did not follow the necessary process in changing the law and as a result, stepped over Guam’s legislation and the Supreme Court.
According to the Guam’s Pacific Daily News, Anderson simply sent a letter to the acting director of the Department of Public Health and Social Services Leo Casil to start issuing out marriage licenses to gay couples. However, Casil told PDN that the department would not act on Anderson’s instructions “until further notice.”
Still, most of Guam’s political leaders do feel strongly about this issue. The Governor of Guam Eddie Baza Calvo’s office released a statement.
“While this current legal issue is being reviewed, if it is the will of the people of Guam to make same-sex marriage legal on Guam, then the Guam Legislature […] can take action to change the law, or a referendum can be held giving the people of Guam a direct voice in this issue.”
Other leaders such as Democratic Speaker Judith T. Won Pat said, “I strongly believe that if two people who love and care for each other are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to each other, they should have the opportunity to get married, regardless of their sexuality.”
Guam’s Democratic Senator Nerissa B. Underwood, who also supports the legalization, said, “Members of our LGBT community should be afforded the opportunity to exercise the inalienable right to choose who they love and want to marry under the law.”
On the other hand, some leaders believe Guam has other problems that take precedence over legalizing same-sex marriage.
Democratic Senator Michael F.Q. San Nicolas explained, “I would like to remind our island leaders that we still have so many issues to deal with. Many of our people are still waiting for their tax refunds, mass transit is running out of money, law enforcement is still waiting for their back pay, hundreds of teachers and nurses have appeals that are unresolved regarding the competitive wage act, roads are broken, village facilities need repair, the retirement system needs revamping.”
Some leaders did not take a side on the issue and decided to wait until the decision unfolds.
“I don’t want to be party to certain legislation only to a few weeks later the Supreme Court has a different ruling that may be contradictory to what the decision is. I want to see how the Supreme Court rules,” said Guam’s Republican Senator Frank Blas Jr. However, he later stated his opinion on same-sex marriage and shared, “if people love each other, the government shouldn’t stand in the way of the opportunity.”
Although the ruling is still being considered, it’s important for Guam’s political leaders and its people to continue this discussion.
With a culture that is stuck between the old and the new, it’s surprising to see the immense progress that Guam’s political leaders have been making with developing the island.
Currently, there are 37 states that have legalized gay marriage, 13 states that still ban same-sex marriage and hopefully, one U.S. territory, Guam, that declares the ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.