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One American Territory is Holding Out on Same-Sex “Marriage” Decision

Stained-glass window in a church in American Samoa

Ben Miller-cc

John Burger - published on 07/11/15 - updated on 06/08/17

American Samoa, where Christian churches dominate, is reviewing decision

Some states already had legalized same-sex “marriage” before the Supreme Court’s ruling at the end of June. Other states had to start accomodating them.

And then there are the American territories. Most have voluntarily complied with the Supreme Court decision, according to the Associated Press:


In Puerto Rico, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla signed an executive order soon after the ruling. U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp has signed a similar executive order. In Guam, there is no effort to ignore or challenge the ruling, said territorial legislative Vice Speaker Benjamin F. Cruz, who is gay. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is also supporting the decision.

But one US territory is holding out: American Samoa, where the Pacific island’s attorney general is reviewing the decision.
As of Thursday, no one has applied for a same-sex “marriage” license in American Samoa, according to the island’s Office of Vital Statistics. It’s a territory where Christian churches with conservative social views dominate, AP said, pointing out that the local government’s motto is "Samoa, Let God Be First."

But that’s not stopping gay rights advocates, who say the new dictum should go into effect immediately in the territory, which has a population of about 50,000.

"It should be unquestioned," said Rose Cuison Villazor, a professor at University of California, Davis’ law school and an expert on territorial law. "The Supreme Court’s decision was pretty strong."

American Samoa Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale demurred. "We’re still reviewing the decision to determine its applicability to American Samoa, and I have no specific comments at this time," he said.

Asked if same-sex marriage is legal in the territory, Ale said, "I don’t know. We’re reviewing the law."


For gay marriage to be recognized in American Samoa, there needs to be a voluntary decision or litigation, said Chimene Keitner, an expert on territorial status issues at University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

Litigation would require "plaintiffs who have been denied the right to marry and are willing to take a public position on that and challenge their inability to marry," she said.

Plaintiffs could also be those who were married elsewhere and want the marriage recognized in American Samoa, she said.

The AP story said the territory has a tradition of embracing faafafine—males who are raised as females and take on feminine traits. There are many faafafine who aren’t supportive of gay marriage out of "respect for our Samoan culture and religious beliefs," said well-known faafafine Princess Auvaa. 

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Homosexuality
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