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    Monday, October 22, 2018-4:01:28A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Guam same-sex couple ready to fight for marriage in court

HAGÅTÑA — After the Department of Public Health and Social Services declined to accept Loretta Pangelinan and Kathleen Aguero’s marriage license application yesterday, the lesbian couple said they were disappointed but prepared to fight for the​ir right to be legally married in court.

Pangelinan, 28, and Aguero, 28, were accompanied by attorneys Bill Pesch and Todd Thomspon yesterday afternoon, who echoed the couple’s response. Pesch said yesterday that court documents were in the process of being filed, moments after the couple’s marriage license application was rejected.

Loretta M. Pangelinan, 28, holds the application for a marriage license that she and her fiancée Kathleen M. Aguero, 28, wanted to turn in at the Office of Vital Statistics in the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services on Wednesday.  Photo by Matt WeissLoretta M. Pangelinan, 28, holds the application for a marriage license that she and her fiancée Kathleen M. Aguero, 28, wanted to turn in at the Office of Vital Statistics in the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services on Wednesday. Photo by Matt Weiss

Thompson said they will move forward with filing a civil rights action in federal court. “Basically, these ladies were denied equal protection of the laws by refusing to even accept their marriage license application,” Thompson said. “So it will basically seek the remedy of allowing them and other people who are similarly situated on Guam to get married.”

Pesch was confident his clients would win in court. Thompson also noted that other jurisdiction nationwide have recently recognized same-sex marriages legally.

Thompson said the clerk who refused to accept Pangelinan and Aguero’s license yesterday cited 10 GCA Chapter 3 Section 3204, which defines marriage as legal union of persons of opposite sex. According to Thompson and Pesch, Guam has no specific statute that prohibits same-sex marriages.

DPHSS Director James Gillan said the law is very clear. “I think it’s fairly clear when you talk about marriage being between people of the opposite sex, which means man and a woman,” he said. “We can’t issue a marriage license for same sex (couples).”

Gillan said there was no need to fill out the marriage license application initially because the department is not able to issue a marriage license.

Attorney Pesch said he respects the director’s interpretation of the law. “I’m sure he was instructed by someone higher up who looked at 10 GCA and said, ‘Well this is the definition of marriage and since they don’t meet that little definition of marriage, then they’re not going to be able to take that application,’” Pesch said.

Thompson and Pesch said yesterday that they approached Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson prior to their clients’ submitting a marriage license application.

Pangelinan and Thompson said they met in middle school and they’ve been a couple for last nine years. They’ve contemplated marriage for more than five years and a friend recommended they ask for Attorney Pesch’s help. Pangelinan and Aguero have been foster parents to over 10 foster children over the years, including the three that they take care of now in their Yigo home.

Yesterday’s rejection was just a “bump in the road,” Pangelinan said, adding that the couple is prepared to challenge Guam law and religious statutes.

“We’re standing up for our right,” Aguero said. The couple said while they are churchgoers, they are also poised to withstand pushback from the Catholic church. “It has nothing to do with the church or anything. It’s our right to marry the person we love, which is each other.”

The couple’s attorney, Bill Pesch is also the treasurer for Guam’s Alternative Lifestyle Association and a vocal advocate for same-sex marriage. He and his husband, Corman Smau, were married last March in Vancouver, Washington. Their marriage is legally recognized on island, as per Guam law, which recognizes other marriages that are legal in other parts of the world.