National Center for Lesbian Rights

Cases & Advocacy

Reynolds and McKinley

Status: Closed

Outcome: Victory

Location: Cherokee Nation

NCLR represents Kathy Reynolds and Dawn McKinley, a same-sex couple who are members of the Cherokee Nation. In May 2004, Reynolds and McKinley obtained a marriage certificate from the Cherokee Nation and married shortly thereafter. The next month, another member of the Cherokee Nation filed a petition seeking to invalidate Reynolds and McKinley’s marriage.

NCLR successfully defended Reynolds and McKinley before the Cherokee high court. Two days later, various members of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council filed a new action seeking to invalidate Reynolds and McKinley’s marriage. In December 2005, the high court dismissed this second challenge to their marriage.

In January 2006, the Court Administrator, who is responsible for recording marriage licenses, filed a third lawsuit challenging the validity of the couple’s marriage. NCLR defended Reynolds and McKinley’s marriage against this third challenge and, on December 9, 2016, the Cherokee Nation’s Attorney General issued an opinion ruling that the nation’s marriage ban is unconstitutional under the Cherokee Nation Constitution. As a result, Kathy and Dawn were the first married same-sex couple in the Cherokee nation.

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