Metro Weekly

Guam passes marriage equality and employment nondiscrimination acts

Guam Legislature passes pro-LGBT measures on two bipartisan votes

Sen. Nerissa Bretania Underwood (D), the Guam marriage equality bill's chief sponsor.

Sen. Nerissa Bretania Underwood (D), the Guam marriage equality bill’s chief sponsor.

Guam lawmakers has legalized marriage equality, bringing the island territory’s laws into alignment with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn bans prohibiting same-sex marriage earlier this year.

As first reported by the Pacific Daily News, the vote, which passed the legislature 13-2, removes language from local statutes that requires those seeking to marry be of the opposite sex from one another. The District Court of Guam previously struck down the territory’s same-sex marriage ban in June.

Seven of the Legislature’s nine Democrats and all six Republicans voted in favor of the marriage equality billPacific Daily News notes that the two Democratic senators recorded as voting against the act actually did not cast a negative vote, but passed on their vote three times, which gets counted as a “no.”

This is a “time where we must affirm and include in our society those who choose to marry those in their same gender,” said Sen. Nerissa Bretania Underwood (D), the chief sponsor of the marriage equality act.

“It is a matter of fairness. A matter that recognizes the full humanity of citizens who wish to express their love for another human being,” Underwood is quoted as saying. Underwood’s bill also takes gender-specific terminology related to marriage, such as “husband” and “wife” and replaces it with gender-neutral language, such as the word “spouse.”

The passage of same-sex marriage comes just a day after lawmakers unanimously approved a bill to prohibit LGBT employment nondiscrimination. That bill adds sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and military status to a list of protected classes covered by Guam’s nondiscrimination laws. As a result, employers would be prohibited from firing or refusing to hire someone because they belong to one of those protected classes. A few lawmakers raised concerns over the inclusion of gender identity in the bill, and offered an amendment to remove “gender expression” from the legislation, but that amendment was unsuccessful.

Both measures now go to Gov. Eddie Calvo (R) for his signature into law.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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