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Same-sex couple on Guam challenge island’s marriage laws

Loretta M. Pangelinan, left, and Kathleen M. Aguero in front of the U.S. District Court in Hagatna, Guam.
Loretta M. Pangelinan, left, and Kathleen M. Aguero in front of the U.S. District Court in Hagatna, Guam. Grace Garces Bordallo, AP

HAGATNA, Guam — A lesbian couple on Guam has filed a legal challenge to the territory’s marriage laws after they were barred from submitting a license to wed, the second challenge to marriage laws in the five U.S. Pacific and Caribbean territories.

Loretta M. Pangelinan and Kathleen M. Aguero sued Monday in U.S. District Court. The women, both 28, launched their legal battle after a failed attempt to file an application for a marriage license last week.

Their complaint, filed against Guam Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo and territorial registrar Carolyn Garrido, says they are challenging “the discriminatory denial of their freedom to marry in the Territory of Guam.”

A spokeswoman said Guam Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson had no comment Monday. She referred a reporter to a statement the attorney general made last Thursday after the couple attempted to file their application for a marriage license at the Office of Vital Statistics last Wednesday.

Barrett-Anderson said at the time that the actions of the public health department complied with Guam law.

“Whether Guam’s statutes will stand or fail will soon to be definitively decided by the Supreme Court of the United States for our entire nation, and upon that decision, Guam will abide,” she said Thursday.

The couple’s attorneys, Bill Pesch and R. Todd Thompson, asked Barrett-Anderson in an April 7 letter “to smooth the process by advising vital statistics that they needed to comply with the 9th Circuit decision, and she didn’t obviously,” Pesch said.

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The U.S. District Court of Guam falls under the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. Thompson earlier told The Associated Press that he expects the Guam court to follow the appeals court’s decision.

Pesch said his clients are hoping to get their case before a judge within a month.

Guam joins Puerto Rico as the only two territories that face a lawsuit seeking marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. A federal judge in Puerto Rico rejected the lawsuit.

Guam is located 1,500 miles south of Tokyo and 3,700 southwest of Hawaii.

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