American Samoa still undecided on gay marriage

American Samoa is the only U.S. territory to hold out against the recent Supreme Court ruling that legalised gay marriage. Legal observers and gay rights advocates are saying it should go into effect immediately.

American Samoa Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale hasn’t been ready to take that step.

“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.”

  • “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.”
  • 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.
  • U.S. territories have some self-governance rights. The right to marry, however, isn’t a question of self-governance, said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, staff attorney for national gay rights group Lambda Legal. “This is a question of individual right, individual liberty,” he said.

Christian churches with conservative social views dominate in American Samoa, home to about 50,000.

The government’s motto is “Samoa, Let God Be First.”

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.

Auvaa said she wants gay marriage to be legal in American Samoa. If it’s determined that it is, she said, “I would be the first person to apply for a marriage license – if I had a boyfriend who would agree to marriage.”


Additional reading

News category: Asia Pacific.

Tags: , , , ,