As the Pacific island’s attorney general reviews the decision, legal observers and gay rights advocates are saying it should go into effect immediately.
“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.”
But 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.”
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.
Other U.S. territories have voluntarily complied with the Supreme Court decision.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, tribal laws of the 11 Native American tribes in the United States continue to prohibit gay marriage. They won’t need to change their marriage laws despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.
The Navajo and Cherokee, the two largest nations, define marriage as between a man and a woman for its roughly 600,000 members.
Federally recognized tribes have the right to establish their own laws are not subject to the U.S. Constitution.
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