(Reuters) - A federal judge struck down Guam’s ban on same-sex marriage on Friday, the latest in a wave of legal victories for gay rights campaigners that has spread across the United States into its remote island territories, the Pacific Daily News reported.
Bans have been toppling since the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a federal law restricting benefits to heterosexual couples two years ago. The issue will come to a head when that court decides this month whether to allow gay unions nationwide.
Friday’s ruling that Guam’s ban was unconstitutional opens the way for same-sex couples to apply for marriage licenses there from next week, the newspaper said.
The courtroom erupted into applause after the ruling and supporters hugged Loretta M. Pangelinan and Kathleen M. Aguero, the couple who filed the case, the newspaper reported.
The issue has polarized the predominantly Roman Catholic island, a U.S. territory about 3,900 miles (6,300 km) west of Hawaii.
A bill proposing to legalize civil unions between same-sex couples failed to pass the legislature in 2009.
But Guam’s chief federal judge Frances M. Tydingco-Gatewood settled the issue on Friday, citing an earlier decision striking down bans in Idaho and Nevada by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has legal jurisdiction over Guam, the newspaper said.
Gay marriage is now legal in more than half of U.S. states.
The government of another U.S. territory, the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, will no longer defend a law that bans same-sex couples from marrying, its attorney general said in March.
Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Andrew Heavens