As independent nations, Native American tribal groups are able to set their own laws. Federal changes, like the legalization of gay marriage in 2015, don’t affect tribal regulations. Until Friday, 11 of America’s tribal groups had bans on same-sex marriages. Now that the Cherokee nation attorney general Todd Hembree has formally announced a change to the law, that number is down to 10.

The Cherokee do not have their own Supreme Court. Instead, large-scale legal rulings are discussed and voted on by the tribal council composed of elders from the community. In 2004, the tribal council passed the Cherokee Nation Marriage and Family Act, which banned same-sex marriages within the tribe’s jurisdiction. The act was passed unanimously.

Unlike the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage, the overturning of the 2004 act was a quiet affair. The Cherokee nation’s tax commissioner received a request for a vehicle registration for a same-sex couple who had married in an American jurisdiction. The commissioner then asked Attorney General Hembree how to proceed, prompting Hembree’s announcement that same-sex marriage would now be recognized.

Members of the tribal council have not spoken to the media. Tribal Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo explained the office’s decision as a matter of practicality, stating “it makes things easier” to simply recognize same-sex marriages. It’s unclear how this change will affect traditional Cherokee wedding practices.

Categories: Cherokee Nation, Native American

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