Guam governor wants a referendum to decide gay marriage

HAGATNA (Reuters) - The governor of Guam, a tiny U.S. territory in the Pacific, on Wednesday backed legislation allowing same sex marriage but said the issue, which has sharply divided Americans, should be put to a referendum.

Guam's attorney general has written to the public health department urging it to start accepting and processing marriage license applications from same-sex couples, two days after a gay couple sued the government in court.

Loretta Pangelinan and Kathleen Aguero had filed a case before the U.S. District Court in Guam on Monday after they were denied a marriage license application.

Citing a decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Elizabeth Barret-Anderson said on Wednesday gay marriages were constitutional. "Marriage is a fundamental right which cannot be denied based on gender," she said in a memo.

In 2009, a bill proposing to legalize civil union between same-sex couples did not pass after a debate that polarized the predominantly Roman Catholic community.

"The Guam legislature, the people of Guam's representatives, can take action to change the law, or a referendum can be held giving the people of Guam a direct voice in this issue," the governor, Eddie Calvo, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Maureen Maratita; Writing by Manuel Mogato; Editing By Jeremy Laurence)