LGBT rights in Guam

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StatusLegal since 1978
Gender identityTransgender people are allowed to change gender, only after sex reassignment surgery[1]
Discrimination protectionsYes, both sexual orientation and gender identity or expression (employment only)
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsSame-sex marriage since 2015

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Guam, which is an unincorporated territory of the United States, have improved significantly in recent years. Same-sex sexual activity has not been criminalized since 1978 and same-sex marriage has been allowed since 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.


The Chamorro people have traditionally accepted homosexuality and transgender people. Chamorro society was a very sexually tolerant society,[2] where homosexuality was never viewed as taboo but "was taken for granted as part of life".[3][4] The Chamorro word for a gay man is mamflorita (literally little flowers), whereas lesbian is malalahi (literally women acting like men).[5]

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.[6]

Private, adult, consensual and non-commercial homosexual acts have been legal in Guam since a reform of the Criminal Code in 1978.[7]

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.[8][9][10][11] The territory began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples four days later. The Legislature passed the Guam Marriage Equality Act of 2015 on August 11, 2015, making Guam's marriage laws gender-neutral.[12]

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.[13] It was not voted on.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18] 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.

Gender identity or expression

Gender changes are legal in Guam.[1] In order for transgender people to change their legal gender in Guam, 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.[1]

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.[19][20] 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,[21] but the bill ultimately failed on 17 December 2018 as it was defeated by a vote of 6-7.[22][23]

Blood donation

Since 2015, gay and bisexual men in Guam have been allowed to donate blood following a one-year deferral period.[24] In April 2020, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the deferral period was reduced to 3 months.[25]

Living conditions

Guam is regarded as tolerant and accepting of LGBT people, with very few reports of societal discrimination or harassment.[26] 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.[27]

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.[26]

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.[26][28]

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1978)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1978)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (Since 2015)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (Incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages Yes (Since 2015)
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes (Since 2015)
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2015)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2015)
LGB people allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2011)
Transgender people allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender Yes (Only after sex reassignment surgery)[1]
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples Emblem-question.svg (Guam law is silent on all surrogacy)[29]
MSMs allowed to donate blood No/Yes (Since 2020; 3-month deferral period)[25]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Guam Birth Certificate Laws". National Center for Transgender Equality.
  2. ^ Shaw, Susan M.; Staton Barbour, Nancy; Duncan, Patti; Freehling-Burton, Kryn; Nichols, Jane (2018). Women's Lives around the World: A Global Encyclopedia [4 volumes].
  3. ^ Ammon, Richard (October 2008). "Gay Guam". Globalgayz.
  4. ^ Landy, Thomas (May 2, 2018). "Matriarchal traditions endure from pre-colonial Guam". Catholics & Culture.
  5. ^ Kleiber, Eleanor. "Gender identity and Sexual Identity in the Pacific and Hawai'i: Introduction". University of Hawai'i at Mānoa Library.
  6. ^ Painter, George. "The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States - Guam". GLAPN.
  7. ^ "Gay rights map: Notes on the data". BBC News. February 5, 2014. Retrieved November 3, 2014.
  8. ^ Miculka, Cameron (June 5, 2015). "Court strikes down Guam's same-sex marriage ban". Pacific Daily News.
  9. ^ "Guam becomes first US territory to recognise same-sex marriage". The Guardian. June 5, 2015.
  10. ^ Morgan, Joe (June 5, 2015). "Guam officially approves same-sex marriage". Gay Star News.
  11. ^ Garces Bordallo, Grace (June 4, 2015). "Federal judge strikes down Guam's same‑sex marriage ban". LGBTQ Nation.
  12. ^ Raymundo, Shawn (August 12, 2015). "Legislature passes Marriage Equality Act". Pacific Daily News.
  13. ^ "Guam Considers Recognizing Gay Unions". On Top Magazine. August 18, 2009. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  14. ^ Aguon, Mindy (February 24, 2011). "Gay community hopeful for Guam civil unions". Kuam News. Retrieved August 27, 2013.
  15. ^ "IVF AROUND THE WORLD: Which Countries Treat Lesbian Couples?". PollenTree. Archived from the original on April 16, 2012.
  16. ^ "Guam's equality profile". Movement Advancement Project.
  17. ^ O'Connor, John (May 10, 2017). "Gay couple wins battle Birth certificate to get both parents' names". The Guam Daily Post.
  18. ^ "Bill 102-33" (PDF). Guam Legislature. August 12, 2015.
  19. ^ Losinio, Louella (May 31, 2018). "Bill allows gender change on birth certificate". The Guam Daily Post. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  20. ^ "Bill No. 291-34" (PDF). Guam Legislature. May 29, 2018.
  21. ^ Losinio, Louella (December 12, 2018). "Lawmakers raise concerns with gender-change bill". The Guam Daily Post. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  22. ^ Kerrigan, Kevin (December 18, 2018). "Transgender bill fails; 17 other measures passed". The Guam Daily Post.
  23. ^ Marchesseault, Jeffrey (December 17, 2018). "Birth certificate sex change bill fails". Pacific News Center.
  24. ^ Clarke, Toni (December 21, 2015). "FDA overturns 30-year ban on blood donations by gay men". Reuters. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  25. ^ a b McNamara, Audrey (April 2, 2020). "FDA eases blood donation requirements for gay men amid "urgent" shortage". CBS News.
  26. ^ a b c Pang, Neil (June 4, 2018). "Hundreds join Pride March". The Guam Daily Post.
  27. ^ Carrera, Janela (April 22, 2015). "UOG Poll: 55% Support Gay Marriage". Pacific News Center. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  28. ^ Denight, Nathan (May 14, 2018). "Denight: Celebrate continued growth of Guam's tourism industry". Pacific Daily News. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  29. ^ Pesch, Bill (January 3, 2016). "No uniform surrogacy laws". Pacific Daily News.
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