Cherokee Nation recognizes marriage equality for several hundred thousand tribe members

Despite the United States Supreme Court ruling in 2015, this did not apply to everyone across America. Select sovereign Native American tribes continued to withhold the right for tribal members to have their same-sex marriages recognized. 

“In December, just weeks after North Carolina began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the state’s Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians updated its law to add language preventing gay couples from having marriage ceremonies performed on tribal land,” according to LGBTQ Nation.

After the Supreme Court ruling, it appeared that the Cherokee Nation may never overturn their views on same-sex marriage. To the surprise of many, this ban came to an end on December 9 when Cherokee Attorney General Todd Hembree wrote a 12 page opinion piece in response to a question from Tax Commission Director Sharon Swepston.

“Whether the Cherokee Nation constitution guarantees a Cherokee citizen the benefit or protection of the laws of the Cherokee Nation regardless of whether a citizen has entered into a same-sex or opposite-sex marriage,” Hembree summarized Swepston’s question.

His answer, in short, was “yes.”

This announcement  came as a shock to many, especially Dawn McKinley and Kathy Reynolds. McKinley and Reynolds filed for a Cherokee marriage license in 2004 and were denied, inspiring the Cherokee ban on same-sex marriage.

Hembree’s recognition of same-sex nuptials opens up the door for over 315,000 citizens of Cherokee Nation to have their marriage recognized by their tribe.

We hope that other Native American tribes will follow suit so that no couple has to choose between their relationship and loyalty to their tribe.

Read the full statement from Attorney General Todd Hembree on the Talequah Daily Press.