Guam’s attorney general ordered officials on Wednesday to begin processing applications for same-sex marriages, making it the first U.S. territory to do so. Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson gave the order, citing a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that found that state-level bans on gay marriages were unconstitutional, the Associated Press reported.
Barrett-Anderson ordered the state’s health and public service departments to treat “all same gender marriage applicants with dignity and equality under the Constitution."
The move comes just two days after a lesbian couple raised a legal challenge after they were prevented from filing an application for a marriage license. The two filed the complaint against Guam's governor and territorial registrar, challenging what they called “the discriminatory denial of their freedom to marry in the Territory of Guam," the AP reported.
The attorneys representing the couple had last week sent a letter to Barrett-Anderson asking that she “smooth the process by advising [the office of] vital statistics that they needed to comply with the 9th Circuit decision, and she didn't obviously."
Barrett-Anderson had earlier declined to comment on the case and referred to a prior statement, where she had said that the health department’s rejection of the marriage letter 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 had said on Thursday, referring to an upcoming Supreme Court hearing that is set to begin later this month, the AP reported.
With the new decision, Guam becomes the first of five U.S. Pacific and Caribbean territories to allow same-sex marriages. Another lawsuit that challenges marriage laws of Puerto Rico is currently pending before a federal court in Boston.