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Indian tribe conducts Michigan’s first same-sex marriage

Indian tribe conducts Michigan’s first same-sex marriage

The Odawa Indian tribe has enacted Michigan’s first same-sex marriage.

The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians tribe married today tribe member Tim LaCroix, 53, and his husband Gene Barfield, 60.

The Odawan tribe is one of 500 federally recognized Native American tribes in the US, and the first to legalize same-sex marriage in Michigan state. Since Native American tribes are considered sovereign entities, neither state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage nor the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevent this same-sex marriage.

Barfield told the Detroit Free Press: ‘They [Odawa tribe] have their own government, they have their own police force, they have their own rules and regulations’.

The Odawa tribal council passed a vote to legalize same-sex marriage in the tribe on 2 March, requiring that at least one spouse be a tribe citizen.

‘They’re very big on respect, and for them to say to us “We respect your relationship and your prerogative to define it as you choose” is really special’.

LaCroix and Barfield met in 1983 while both were on active duty in the Navy. After 30 years together, the couple married in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages after paying $15 (€11.5) for their marriage license.

Barfield added: ‘We’ve been partners for 30 years in the way people use the word ‘partner’ for a same sex couple.

‘Now we’re not going to be partners anymore. We’re going to be spouses’.

Odawa tribe Chairman Dexter McNamara, whose signature was required to finalize the marriage, also volunteered to perform the ceremony.

‘I’ve always felt that either you believe in equal rights or you are prejudiced,’ McNamara said.

‘We don’t have a dividing line in this tribe. Everyone deserves to live the lives of their choice’.