By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Staff
A total of nine new ordinances were submitted to be deemed read and tabled for the June regular session of Tribal Council, but only eight made it through. An ordinance, submitted by Tamara Thompson, that sought to amend Cherokee Code Chapter 50 Article I (Marriage) that would recognize same-sex within the tribal jurisdiction of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), died on the floor without being deemed read and tabled and with no action being taken.
The ordinance sought numerous changes to Sec. 50.1 including striking that the institution of marriage is only “between a man and a woman”. It also would have added, “Marriage shall not be limited by the gender or sexual orientation of the parties being married” and amended the following sentence to read, “The licensing and solemnization of same-sex marriages, that are duly and legally recognized within the United States, are accepted without discrimination within the jurisdiction of the Eastern Band.”
Thompson, an EBCI tribal member from the Big Cove Community, was not happy that her legislation wasn’t even heard. “It’s our government too,” she told the One Feather. “Those who are EBCI and LGBTQ+ deserve inclusion and protection under the law just like every other tribal member. I am very protective of my LGBTQ+ friends and family, and I wanted to start this process to ensure that they and I had every opportunity to pursue our own happiness without being disenfranchised by our own government just because we are different and we love differently.”
Upon hearing that her legislation died and was not deemed read and tabled, Thompson said she was in disbelief at first. “My heart shattered. I wept. I was frustrated and felt tremendously judged and unwanted, personally dismissed, but my sadness turned to outrage and determination. Because, no matter how disheartening it was to have my rights and my identity mistreated and dismissed, being discriminated against by Council only invigorated my resolve to see the campaign for marriage equality succeed.”
Thompson said she wishes the entire issue didn’t have to be such a struggle. “I wish that it didn’t have to be such a colossal fight just to get acceptance and compassion from our own people for something the rest of the country has had freely for years. I would hope that Council could see that by making an issue out of this, they are only starting a war – a war that may end up being settled in the courtroom but that will be fought by the people of this Tribe, neighbor against neighbor, and the casualties will be our own.”
She added, “The one’s who will be hurt the most will be those that we love and care for, and if we truly care for the welfare of this Tribe, then ensuring that all tribal members are treated fairly and equally, including ensuring marriage equality, has to be a priority.”
Thompson noted, “Tribal Council needs to put aside their personal judgments, stop allowing non-Native religions to influence our tribal laws, and see that it’s in everyone’s best interest to eliminate hate and disparity from our laws.”
Ord. No. 381 (2014) was passed on Dec. 11, 2014 and added the language to the Cherokee Code banning same-sex marriages within the EBCI tribal jurisdiction. The legislation stated in part, “God’s Holy word defines marriage as being between a man and a woman only, according to Genesis 1:27; and, it defines homosexuality, etc. being error according to Romans 1:27…”
That legislation was submitted by Denny Crowe, Bo Parris, Ben Reed, and Gilbert Breedlove.
The One Feather contacted the legal counsel for Tribal Council for comment on this issue and has not received a response by press time.