Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Update: Cherokee Couple's Marriage Certificate Ok'd

(Link) Adorably cute lesbian couple's marriage gets the legal blessing it needsNews lead submitted by Patti, Pennsylvania's Queen of Chicken Monkey Shoes. Give her some love at her blog


LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
By Travis Snell

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - The Cherokee Nation’s court administrator recently refused to accept and register a lesbian couple’s tribal marriage certificate because of a same-sex marriage moratorium issued by the tribe’s Judicial Appeals Tribunal chief justice.

Dawn L. McKinley, 32, and Kathy E. Reynolds, 27, both Cherokee Nation citizens, were issued a tribal marriage certificate May 13 by a courthouse clerk. The issuance sent tribal officials scrambling to clarify the tribe’s marriage laws and led JAT Chief Justice Darrell Dowty to issue a same-sex marriage certificate freeze May 14.

McKinley and Reynolds, accompanied by the female minister who married them and two members of the local press, returned to the courthouse May 18 to have their marriage certificate registered with the tribe two hours after their wedding in Tulsa.

Court administrator Lisa Fields refused to accept and register the couple’s marriage certificate because of Dowty’s moratorium. Fields said the couple asked her to write that the certificate was presented to the court.

"I wrote at the top (of the marriage certificate) that they brought it in for certification and that we refused it because of the moratorium, and I signed it," Fields said.

The couple was the only same-sex couple to receive a marriage application before Dowty issued the freeze, Fields said.

"We’re good enough to be on your roll, but not good enough to be married in the eyes of the tribe, and where does that leave us?" McKinley said. She also told court officials that tribal law requires every Cherokee citizen to be treated the same and that the law doesn’t state that homosexuals don’t have the same rights as other citizens.

According to Cherokee law, every person who has attained the age of 18 shall be capable of contracting marriage. It also states the only people who may not be married under Cherokee law are parties having a "husband or wife living, parties who are nearer of kin that first cousins, either of the half or of the whole blood, and parties who are insane or idiotic."

Fields said the matter is pending and that the court was under the assumption that the Tribal Council would act on it. The JAT has not scheduled a review of the matter.

Mike Miller, tribal communications officer, said the tribe issues marriage applications instead of licenses. After the ceremony, the person conducting the wedding signs the application, and the couple returns it to the tribal court for certification.

Todd Hembree, the Tribal Council’s attorney, said that part of the law is "under review."

Miller, in an e-mail to tribal employees, wrote that the Cherokee Nation has not authorized same-sex marriages.

"Neither the Principal Chief nor the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council has taken any action to approve, authorize or recognize any marriage except a marriage between a man and a woman," he wrote. "The Cherokee Nation’s General Counsel, Julian Fite, has issued a formal opinion stating that Cherokee Nation Law recognizes and authorizes marriages only between a man and a woman.

"The application in question will not be filed and no further applications will be issued to same sex couples pending further order of the court," Miller wrote. "In the meantime, this matter will be carefully considered by leadership and possibly the courts. Regrettably, the Cherokee Nation has been dragged into a nationwide controversy by people promoting their own agenda."

"We believe the definition of marriage is only between a man and woman," Principal Chief Chad Smith said. "Any other marriage application would not be valid."

"The licensing is an abomination. I don’t believe the license should have been issued," Tribal Councilor Linda Hughes O’Leary said. "The (Cherokee) constitution doesn’t allow for that, as far as I know."

Julian Fite, CN General Counsel, deferred the interpretation of marriage under CN law to the JAT in a May 17 memo to Dowty.

"It is my opinion as general counsel of the Cherokee Nation that Cherokee Nation law recognizes and authorizes marriages only between a man and a woman," he wrote. "Any aggrieved parties may challenge this opinion. This might have the effect of creating a case in controversy, and the JAT will have jurisdiction to hear the matter."

Miller said the issue was not pressing on the CN’s agenda.

"Someone has seized the power of our sovereignty and brought their controversy into our platform," he said.

Same-sex marriages are illegal in Oklahoma, but the state honors marriage applications from the tribe.

Attorney General Drew Edmondson has said that federal law does not require Oklahoma to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. It was not immediately clear whether the tribe’s sovereign status would change that.

Hembree said, to his knowledge, no other tribes have approved same-sex marriages.

As of press time, McKinley and Reynolds had not challenged in tribal court the refusal of their certificate.

Patti said...

Most pleasing unexpected plug for my fledgling blog. Kudos for posting items of particular interest to women. I subscribe to The Advocate and listen to OutQ (on SIRIUS satellite radio) and both are heavily skewed toward mens' issues. I actually wrote to OutQ and was told that I must not listen at the right times because they make every effort to be "even" about their shows. I beg to differ - but I still listen.

LNewsEditor said...

I subscribed to the Advocate for a couple years until I realized it was about 90% mens issues, much like the other GLBT news sources. And kudos to you for bitching to OutQ about it! Thus, the need for this site: GLBT News without the G, B or T = LNews. Voila.

LNewsEditor said...

Note: JIC post was the original story. Here's the update, in case that link fades away...

From Associated Press
(Tahlequah, OK) -- A Cherokee Nation court has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the tribe from giving its legal blessing to a lesbian couple's marriage.

The Judicial Appeals Tribunal in its ruling Wednesday said that tribe member and attorney Todd Hembree had no standing to sue and could not show that he suffered any harm by legal recognition of the same-sex marriage.

Dawn McKinley and Kathy Reynolds haven't decided whether they will try again to file their tribal marriage certificate. Since the tribe is sovereign, Cherokee Nation marriage certificates are recognized just like Oklahoma marriage licenses.

The couple, who are both members of the tribe, exchanged vows in Cherokee in May 2004 after the tribe gave them the certificate without protest. But Hembree sued and won an injunction that kept it from being filed.

After the couple wed, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council unanimously approved language defining a union as between one man and one woman.

Previously, tribal laws governing marriages used Cherokee terms for "husband" and "wife" that Hembree claimed were gender-specific. The couple contended the terms were not gender specific, and that the Cherokee words used in the marriage ceremony are "cooker" for wife and "companion" for husband.

The court would still have to accept the certificate before it is filed.

"We're excited, we're happy," Reynolds said. "We're determining what our next step is going to be."

Hembree, who serves as counsel to the tribe's legislative body, said the court's decision ends the case for him: "That is a decision by the highest court in our land."