Cherokee Court Rejects Petition to Block Same-Sex Marriage
(Tahlequah, OK, August 3, 2005) — Today, the Judicial Appeals Tribunal of the Cherokee Nation, the highest Cherokee court, rejected a petition to block same-sex marriage. The court found that Todd Hembree, a private citizen, lacked standing to bring suit challenging the validity of Ms. Kathy Reynolds and Ms. Dawn McKinley’s marriage. In doing so, the Court granted Ms. Reynolds and Ms. McKinley’s motion to dismiss the case.
In May 2004, Ms. Reynolds and Ms. McKinley, citizens of the Cherokee Nation, applied for and were issued a marriage certificate. The couple wed shortly thereafter. On June 16, 2004, a member of the Cherokee tribe, Todd Hembree, filed a Petition seeking to have the couple’s marriage held invalid. The Cherokee Court found that Mr. Hembree lacked standing to bring suit challenging the validity of the marriage because he has failed to show that he will suffer individualized harm.
“This is a tremendous victory for our clients and the Cherokee Nation” said Lena Ayoub, National Center for Lesbian Rights Staff Attorney. “By dismissing the case, the Court rejected the idea that a private citizen can attack the validity of a marriage simply because he has strong political beliefs regarding the right of same-sex couples to marry. Permitting same-sex couples to marry does not individually harm or affect other people. The court’s ruling protects people’s right to conduct their lives in privacy and peace, without being hauled into court by third parties who have no relationship to them and no direct interest in the matter being litigated.”
“This decision speaks to the primacy of native sovereignty and traditions that demonstrate acceptance and dignity of all human beings and our spiritual traditions” said Richard LaFortune, Campaign Director for 2SPR (2 Spirit Press Room), a Native GLBT Media Project in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“We are so happy that the Court dismissed the case. Our relationship is precious to us and we’re grateful for all the support we’ve received from throughout the world,” the couple said.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) represented Ms. Reynolds and Ms. McKinley before the Judicial Appeals Tribunal of the Cherokee Nation.