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First gay couple to marry in US territory ties knot

09 June 2015, 13:04

Hagatina - There were no flowers. There was no music. The onlookers witnessing Guam's first wedding of a gay couple were mostly members of the media.

"It's my privilege to officiate at this. Do you take each other to share your lives, to promise to take good care of one another for as long as you live?" Public Health Director James Gillan asked.

"I do," said Deasia Johnson of Killeen, Texas.

"I do," answered her bride, Nikki Dismuke of New Orleans.

"By the power vested in me by the laws of Guam, I pronounce you married," Gillan said before the two military members kissed to solemnize their vows.

With those words, in a ceremony that lasted less than a minute in Gillan's office, Johnson and Dismuke became the first gay couple to be legally married in a U.S. territory.

Guam got that distinction Tuesday after a federal judge last week struck down the island territory's ban, saying it was unconstitutional.

Loretta M. Pangelinan, 28, and Kathleen M. Aguero, 29, sued to overturn the territory's law after being denied a marriage application in April. They based their lawsuit on the prevailing opinion from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had approved gay marriage in western U.S. states. Guam falls under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit Court.

Pangelinan and Aguero arrived at the Office of Vital Statistics on Tuesday morning, where numbers were placed on a table for people to take their turns at the window. Their card said No. 4.

Johnson and Dismuke had picked up the No. 1 card, but they gladly let Pangelinan and Aguero go in front of them out of respect. They then asked that Pangelinan and Aguero be witnesses for them.

"How can you not be emotional?" said Pangelinan, who began to cry when she heard the request.

Johnson and Dismuke said they have been together three years, the same amount of time they have wanted to get married.

They already have had a commitment ceremony, but they didn't get a wedding certificate.

"I'm not walking out here until I get it in my hand," Johnson said after the marriage ceremony.

At least three same-sex couples were in line for marriage licenses during the office's first few hours of business, and two other couple picked up applications, said Bill Pesch, one of the lawyers representing Pangelinan and Aguero.

"It's been a long time coming, and we really couldn't be happier," he said.

Gay marriage in Guam became possible after U.S. District Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood on Friday struck down Guam's prohibition on same-sex marriage. The developments in Guam also come as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to issue a decision on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage this month.

Lillian Lee, 57, and her partner, Susan "Sam" Diaz, 65, were also in line to get their marriage license application. Lee said she thanks Pangelinan and Aguero for making "gay marriage possible."

"I'm happy because I'm getting married here on our island. Not somewhere else," she said.

Currently, gay couples can marry in 36 states, the District of Columbia and Guam.

About 160,000 people live on Guam, an island about 3,800 miles west of Hawaii. Its residents are U.S. citizens, but they don't have the right to cast ballots for the country's president.

The territory elects a delegate to the U.S. House, but the delegate is not allowed to vote on legislation. Guam has no representation in the U.S. Senate.

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- AP


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