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Marriage Equality

The Status of Marriage in the U.S. Territories

The Status of Marriage in the U.S. Territories


Aside from Southern officials hindering licenses, marriage equality is happening in all 50 states. But what about Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa?

Same-sex couples can now wed from Alabama to Alaska, but what if they want to exchange vows while on vacation in one of America's territories (or locals there want to tie the knot)? Though high court decisions apply to all parts of America, including the territories and commonwealths, marriage equality outside the 50 states is a little more complicated. Here's where things stand:

Guam: Earlier this month, this Pacific island became the first U.S. territory to legalize same-sex marriage. Read a touching story here of a Guam couple who finally wed after nearly 20 years together.

Puerto Rico: Marriage equality isn't yet the law of the land in this Caribbean commonwealth, but it will be soon. Not long after the Supreme Court ruling was delivered Friday, the governor signed an executive order demanding that officials recognize the decision within two weeks. Licenses should be handed to same-sex couples in July.

U.S. Virgin Islands: Though many officials in this Caribbean territory recognize they must comply with the decision, there is opposition; V.I. Senate President Neville James indicated he would challenge or stymie enforcement of the ruling. No marriages for now.

Northern Mariana Islands: This commonwealth in Micronesia will offer marriage equality soon; governor Eloy Inos said officials are working to make licenses available to same-sex couples, and preached tolerance for these new unions.

American Samoa: The marriage situation is in flux on this South Pacific island of 55,000 people. Unlike the territories and commonwealths above, residents of American Samoa are not American citizens but American nationals, so the constitutional rights guaranteed to all citizens may not apply here. A lawsuit to determine whether American Samoans are actually U.S. citizens is currently wending its way through a D.C. Circuit Court.

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