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04/19/2007


Coalition For Navajo Equality Hopes To Overturn Tribal Anti-Gay Marriage Legislation

The Navajo Nation may soon see a review of its tribal ban on gay marriage, spurred on by the Coalition for Navajo Equality. The original legislation, which banned same-sex marriages in 2005, likely passed in part because of the climate of the federal government at the time, and limited state support for same-sex couples; now, many Navajo people would like to see that law overturned, following in the footsteps of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma. 

NavajonationAl Jazeera reports:

Alray Nelson, founder of the Coalition for Navajo Equality, says he wants the Navajo Nation (flag at right) to respect same-sex relationships, just like two of the states that surround its territory — New Mexico, where gay marriage was legalized this month, and Utah, where it was recently ruled legal but faces a mounting appeal.

“There’s no organized faction against this, like in the fight (for) Proposition 8 in California,” said Nelson, 27, whose organization is seeking to make tribal legislators review a 2005 tribal ban on gay marriage early next year.

Opposition to the review may not be organized, but it exists.

Deswood Tome, a special adviser to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, told Al Jazeera that although Navajo respect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Navajo, marriage is traditionally between a man and woman.

Tome referred to a traditional phrase in the Navajo language that “means that ‘a man and woman come together.’ That's our core belief as Navajo people ... I’ve never heard of a man and man.”

OFFICIAL.PHOTOGRAPH.President.Shelly-250x300President Shelly (right), it turns out, both agreed and disagreed with Tome's interpretation. While the tradition has been marriage between one man and one woman, Shelly stated that his personal belief is one of equal opportunity for marriage, gay or straight. Other tribal nations agree and fear that state and federal influences (such as George W. Bush's 2004 defense of DOMA) have caused dissent within their tribes.

In October two gay men became the third same-sex couple to be officially married by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. Their territory is surrounded by Oklahoma, where gay marriage remains illegal and faces much opposition. 

After their marriage, a high-level official called a tribal meeting to discuss measures to block such unions, said Cheyenne and Arapaho Lt. Gov. Amber Bighorse-Suitor. 

“I was surprised when this broke that there was any opposition in the tribe. The attitude in Oklahoma seems to have infiltrated some of our tribal attitudes,” she said. 

The same-sex marriage debate seems to represent just one facet of an ever-shifting dynamic between states, tribal nations, and the federal government. Influences both positive (Utah and New Mexico's marriage decisions) and negative (Oklahoma's largely anti-gay stance) have traversed national borders.  

Hopefully the Navajo Nation will review the 2005 ban and decide, like the other tribal governments, to allow same-sex marriage. Good luck to the Coalition for Navajo Equality!


Leech Lake Native American Tribe of Minnesota Weds First Gay Couple

Wooley and Dahl

Fifteen years after meeting each other in an Oregon bar, decades of debating whether to marry or not, having plans shattered by California's Prop 8, and spending 2 years fighting for their right to marry on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, Arnold Dahl and Matthew Wooley finally tied the knot.

It was the first same-sex marriage on the Minnesota reservation.

After returning to the reservation 10 years ago to visit Arnold's father, the couple decided to stay and purchased and renovated the Lake Winnibigoshish General Store, which was owned by Arnold's family. They are now the proprietors and hope to set a positive example for others, particularly after receiving some backlash from community members who disapproved of their relationship. Arnold was raised on the reservation and remembers having few role models to look up to and seek advice from. He hopes that he and his husband can make a difference and break down barriers in their community just by being who they are.


First Gay Couple Marries — Legally — in Oklahoma: VIDEO

Pickel

Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear are the first gay couple married legally in the state of Oklahoma, KOCO reports:

Couple_oklahoma“That's the biggest trip I've had so far,” said Pickel. “I'm not even sure how to even react.  I'm very excited about getting married.  It's been eight and a half years."

For the past five years, Jason's wanted to marry boyfriend Darren Black Bear. The two even planned a trip to Iowa, a state that recognizes same-sex marriage. But when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last June, Pickel had an idea. He called the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe's courthouse and asked a simple question.

"I was really expecting a big no,” said Pickel. “I thought we're on our way to Iowa, but I called the tribe and they said, 'Yeah come on down, it's twenty bucks.'"

Twenty dollars for what no amount of money could buy in Oklahoma -- a marriage license made legal by the tribal code. Its requirements, both people be of Native American descent and live within the tribe's jurisdiction. Nowhere does it specify gender.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Cheyenne

Continue reading "First Gay Couple Marries — Legally — in Oklahoma: VIDEO" »


Colville Tribes of Washington Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

The Colville Tribes this week became the fourth Native American tribe to recognize same-sex marriage. They are located in northeast Washington state, and voted for its recognition on Thursday.

The Wenatchee World reports: Colville

Council Chairman Michael Finley said tribes have always known that gay people — who they call Two-Spirited Peoples — have a special place in their society.

Finley said tribal culture has long recognized that some people are born a certain gender, and are drawn to people of the same gender. “They’ve always been accepted,” he said. Now, tribal law will also treat them equally and with respect, he said.

He said there were no objections to the amendment recognizing gay marriage when the final council vote was taken, but not all 14 council members were present.

The provision affects over 9,360 members who are descendants of 12 different tribes and are members of the Confederated Tribes of the Colvile Reservation.

Same-sex marriage is also legal within the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa in Michigan, the Suquamish tribe in Washington state, and the Coquille tribe in Oregon.


Native American Tribe Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage: VIDEO

Suquamish

Heather Purser, a lesbian member of the Native American Suquamish tribe of Washington state, succeeded in getting the tribe to approve same-sex marriage by demanding a vote at a meeting, the Kitsap Sun reports:

Purser Purser, a 28-year-old who lives in Seattle but was raised in Kitsap County, has been trying to get the tribe's law changed for about four years. She made the most progress at the tribe's general council in March.

During that meeting of the tribe's entire enrolled membership, she stepped to the microphone asking for recognition for gay couples. The tribe's leadership said they would continue to consider it, she said.

When Purser sat down people around her told her she needed to get up again and request a vote of the entire audience.

After a unanimous vote the tribe held a public hearing on the measure in June, and approved it on Monday.

Watch a KING5 news report and interview with Purser, AFTER THE JUMP...

The AP adds:

The new law allows the tribal court to issue a marriage license to two unmarried people, regardless of their sex, if they're at least 18 years old and at least one of them is enrolled in the tribe.

It will be up to other courts to decide if unions granted under the Suquamish ordinance will be recognized elsewhere in Washington, said the tribe's attorney, Michelle Hansen.

While same-sex marriage is not legal in the state, same-sex unions from elsewhere are recognized and the state does have a domestic partner law which offers citizens all the rights of marriage, but not the name.

Watch a KING5 news report and interview with Purser, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Native American Tribe Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage: VIDEO" »


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