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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Guam have improved significantly in recent years. Same-sex sexual activity has not been criminalized since 1978, and same-sex marriage has been allowed since June 2015. The U.S. territory now has discrimination protections in employment for both sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, federal law has provided for hate crime coverage since 2009. Gender changes are legal in Guam, provided the applicant has undergone sex reassignment surgery.

History

The Chamorro people have traditionally accepted homosexuality and transgender people. Chamorro society was a very sexually tolerant society, where homosexuality was never viewed as taboo but "was taken for granted as part of life". The Chamorro word for a gay man is (literally ''little flowers''), whereas lesbian is (literally ''women acting like men''). Following Spanish colonization in the 17th century, and the subsequent Westernization and Americanization of Guam in the 20th century, it incorporated the Western concepts of sexuality and gender, which until recently stigmatized LGBT people. In 1900, the Naval Governor of Guam published an order, whereby "the males of the Caroline islanders' community in Guam are hereby forbidden to appear in public in their customary nude condition, or "string-and-pouch" decoration." A new penal code was ordained by the Naval Governor in 1933; identical to California's, it prohibited sodomy, fellatio (oral sex) and cunnilingus, whether heterosexual and homosexual, with between one and ten years' imprisonment. The only reported sodomy case in Guam occurred in the early 1950s. The case, known as ''Pennington v. Government'', resulted in a victory for the defendant, accused of engaging in an act of sodomy, but solely on procedural grounds. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the trial court had been without authority to try Pennington without a jury. Private, adult, consensual and non-commercial homosexual acts have been legal in Guam since a reform of the Criminal Code in 1978.

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Guam became the first overseas territory of the United States to recognize and perform same-sex marriages in June 2015. On June 5, 2015, Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood of the United States District Court for the District of Guam ruled that Guam's prohibition on same-sex couples marrying is unconstitutional. She cited the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in ''Latta v. Otter'' striking down identical bans in Idaho and Nevada. The territory began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples four days later. The Legislature of Guam passed the ''Guam Marriage Equality Act of 2015'' on August 11, 2015, making Guam's marriage laws gender-neutral. In 2009, a measure was introduced into the Legislature of Guam that would have given same-sex couples some of the same legal rights and responsibilities as opposite-sex married couples. It was not voted on.

Adoption and family planning

Following Guam's legalization of same-sex marriage, adoption by same-sex couples has also been permitted. Additionally, lesbian couples have access to assisted reproduction services, such as in vitro fertilization. Guam recognizes the non-genetic, non-gestational parent as a legal parent to a child born via donor insemination, but only if the parents are married. In May 2017, the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services announced it would enter the names of both spouses on the birth certificates of children who have same-sex parents.

Discrimination protections and hate crime law

In August 2015, the Guam Legislature unanimously passed ''Bill 102-33'', which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment. Discrimination against government employees based on their sexuality or identity is also forbidden. Federal law covers hate crimes on both sexual orientation and gender identity since 2009 under the federal ''Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act''.

Transgender rights

In order for transgender people to change their legal gender in Guam on their birth certificate, they must provide the Office of Vital Statistics a sworn statement from a physician that they have undergone sex reassignment surgery. The Office will subsequently amend the birth certificate of the requester. The Motor Vehicle Devision Supervisor will issue an amended driver's license upon receipt of a sworn statement from a physician that the sex of the applicant has been surgicially changed. In May 2018, Senator Fernando Esteves introduced a bill to make it easier for transgender individuals to change their legal gender. Under the proposed bill, transgender people seeking a legal gender change would have had to receive judicial permission and send the Office of Vital Statistics a letter confirming their gender identity. The letter must have also included documentation from a certified psychologist, social worker, therapist or other licensed professional affirming that the applicant's request reflects their sex or gender identity. Surgery would not have been required. On 13 December 2018, the Legislature decided to postpone a vote on the bill until issues regarding medical and law enforcement processes were dealt with, but the bill ultimately failed on 17 December 2018 as it was defeated by a vote of 6–7.

Blood donation

Since 2015, gay and bisexual men in Guam have been allowed to donate blood following a one-year deferral period. In April 2020, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the deferral period was reduced to 3 months.

Living conditions

Guam is regarded as tolerant and accepting of LGBT people, with very few reports of societal discrimination or harassment. According to an April 2015 poll conducted by students from the University of Guam, 55% of Guam residents were in favor of same-sex marriage, while 29% opposed it and 16% were undecided. Since the 1990s, there has been a visible LGBT social scene, with a handful of nightclubs and social functions organized locally. Guam Pride has been held annually since 2017, attracting a few hundred people. Guam is a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, and has recently begun commercializing itself as a tourist destination for LGBT people.

Summary table



See also

*LGBT rights in the United States *LGBT rights in Oceania *LGBT rights in the Northern Mariana Islands

References

{{DEFAULTSORT:Lgbt Rights In Guam Guam LGBT rights LGBT rights Guam