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MARRIAGE DIGEST: Cherokee couple seeks ‘gay marriage’; Calif. group begins petition drive; Floridians favor amend.

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (BP)–A lesbian couple in Oklahoma is seeking to become the first Cherokee couple involved in a “gay marriage,” and tribal sovereignty would shield them from state laws that already ban such unions.

Dawn McKinley and Kathy Reynolds filed for and received a marriage application from the Cherokee Nation last year, then took part in a “wedding” ceremony. But before they could file the application to make it official, another tribe member, Todd Hembree, filed suit in an effort to prevent the Cherokee Nation from recognizing the union.

The tribe’s Judicial Appeals Tribunal threw out Hembree’s lawsuit Aug. 3, saying he did not have legal standing. The ruling apparently cleared the way for the couple to file their application again.

Further complicating the case, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council voted last August to ban “gay marriage.” That vote, though, did not come until after the women had received their application.

“We’re excited, we’re happy,” Reynolds told the Associated Press after the ruling. “We’re determining what our next step is going to be.”

Hembree said the path is clear for the “marriage” to become official.

“That is a decision by the highest court in our land,” Hembree told AP. “There’s now no legal prohibition to having their marriage certificate recognized.”

Oklahoma voters passed an amendment banning “gay marriage” by a margin of 76-24 percent last year, but tribal sovereignty allows the Cherokee Nation to define marriage as it wishes.

Another American Indian tribe, the Navajo Nation, also has been involved in a “gay marriage” controversy. In May Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. vetoed a measure banning “gay marriage,” saying it was unnecessary. But in June the Navajo tribal government overrode Shirley’s veto by a vote of 62-14, making it law.

CALIF. GROUP GATHERS SIGNATURES — The California coalition ProtectMarriage.com has begun gathering signatures in an effort to place a constitutional marriage amendment on the ballot in 2006. The pro-family coalition began gathering signatures July 28 after Attorney General Bill Lockyer released the title and summary of the amendment.

Meanwhile, another pro-family coalition, VoteYesMarriage.com, has filed suit against Lockyer, saying the title and summary he placed on their amendment petition is biased. Liberty Counsel, which is part of the coalition, filed the suit.

“The attorney general has failed to carry out his duty to prepare a neutral, factual title and summary,” Mathew Staver, general counsel of Liberty Counsel, said in a statement. “… The prejudicial title and summary must be amended to give the people their right to vote to protect marriage rights.”

The VoteYesMarriage.com title reads, “Marriage. Elimination of Domestic Partnership Rights.” Amendment supporters say the title — which is at the top of every petition — unfairly focuses on a secondary issue, domestic partnerships, instead of on the main issue, “gay marriage.”

The ProtectMarriage.com title reads, “Marriage. Invalidation of Domestic Partnerships.” The ProtectMarriage.com coalition chose not to challenge Lockyer in court.

VoteYesMarriage.com is supported by the American Family Association, Liberty Counsel, Traditional Values Coalition and the Center for Reclaiming America. ProtectMarriage.com has the backing of Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and the Alliance Defense Fund. The two coalitions differ on what the amendment should say, although spokespersons for both coalitions say their respective amendment would nullify California’s domestic partnership law.

The VoteYesMarriage.com amendment states: “Only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized in California, whether contracted in this state or elsewhere. Neither the Legislature nor any court, government institution, government agency, initiative statute, local government or government official shall abolish the civil institution of marriage between one man and one woman, or bestow statutory rights or incidents of marriage on unmarried persons, or require private entities to offer or provide rights or incidents of marriage to unmarried persons. Any public act, record, or judicial proceeding, from within this state or another jurisdiction, that violates this section is void and unenforceable.”

The ProtectMarriage.com amendment states: “A marriage between a man and a woman is the only legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”

FLORIDIANS FAVOR AMENDMENT — A new poll shows that by a margin of 59-32 percent, Floridians favor adopting a constitutional marriage amendment within their state. The poll was conducted by Strategic Vision among 1,200 registered voters July 16-20.

A coalition calling itself Florida4Marriage.org has begun a petition drive with the goal of placing an amendment on the 2006 ballot. It hopes to collect 1 million signatures by Feb. 1.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust