Victory in Guam! Chief Judge Bans Enforcement of Discriminatory Marriage Laws

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June 5, 2015
Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Staff Attorney

Today, District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood granted summary judgment for plaintiffs and banned enforcement of all laws in the U.S. Territory denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry. Judge Tydingco-Gatewood’s ruling followed oral argument in the lawsuit challenging Guam’s marriage ban that private attorneys brought on behalf of Loretta M. (Lo) Pangelinan and Kathleen M. (Kate) Aguero, a lesbian couple denied a Guam marriage license.

The ruling means that Lo and Kate, as well as all other qualified Guam same-sex couples, will be able to apply for a Guam marriage license on the same terms as heterosexual couples on Monday morning.

Mitch Thompson, of the law firm of Thompson Gutierrez and Alcantara, who along with Todd Thompson and Bill Pesch represented Kate and Lo in the federal court lawsuit, said:

Today’s ruling is a resounding victory for our clients and vindication for their right to equal treatment under the law. They came to us in April seeking to immediately exercise their right to marry. They didn’t want to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. Under today's ruling, Lo and Kate got exactly what they have been hoping for.

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a Staff Attorney with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund who provided assistance to the legal team, added:

Thanks to the efforts of Lo and Kate, and their attorneys, Guam has become the first U.S. territory to recognize the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. Congratulations to them for this hard-fought victory. We have been proud to support them throughout this litigation. The equal right to marry of same-sex couples has been recognized by scores of courts across the country. We look forward to the day when loving and committed same-sex couples in every part of the United States, including all of its territories, are able to marry.

Lo and Kate were ecstatic about the court’s ruling. The couple has been patiently waiting since April 8th, the date their marriage application was rejected by the DPHSS's Division of Vital Statistics, for word from the court if and when they'd be able to move forward with their marriage plans.

Kate said:

We are delighted with the news. Actually, we’ve been waiting for nearly eight years to marry. We’re so happy that the time has finally come.

Lo added:

We want to thank all of the wonderful people here on Guam, and around the world, who have supported us during this struggle. Love and equality have prevailed!

Co-counsel Bill Pesch, of the Guam Family Law Office stated:

We are extremely pleased with this outcome. Guam now joins 37 states in granting same-sex couples the right to marry. Not only has the law swung in the favor of the LGBT community on this issue, so too has public opinion throughout the nation. Governor Calvo had been admonished by Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson to comply with the Ninth Circuit's ruling in Latta v Otter. For whatever reason, he choose to ignore her sage advice. As a result, the government has needlessly expended taxpayers' money defending an indefensible law. We are pleased that justice—and reason—have ultimately prevailed.

Though the U.S. Supreme Court could issue an inconsistent ruling later this month in Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex couples married on Guam will likely stay married regardless of any future court decisions, as courts have uniformly refused to take marriage licenses away from couples lawfully married.

Read the press release.