Same-sex marriage amendment fails to pass MCN subcommittee 1-3

Muscogee NationPoliticsCommunity Indigenous
Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 02/15/2024, 3:16 AM
Edited: 02/17/2024, 12:01 AM
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(MUSCOGEE NATION) Update: Legislation to codify same-sex marriage in Muscogee Creek Nation failed to pass the Business, Finance, & Justice Committee Thursday night, with one in favor of the legislation and three against. 

Muscogee Creek Nation Council Representative Dode Barnett (Creek District Seat A), who sponsored the legislation, was the only yes vote. 

Muscogee Creek Nation Council Representatives Sandra Golden (Okfuskee District Seat B), Patrick Freeman, Jr. (Creek District Seat B), and Nelson Harjo, Sr. (Okmulgee District Seat B) all voted no. 

During the committee meeting, Golden said she received a lot of calls from churches and ceremonial grounds telling her not to pass the legislation.

"How do you make them do it [if] the church says they don't want same-sex marriage allowed in their church?" Golden asked Barnett during the discussion. 

"We would not," Barnett answered. 

Harjo said pulling the words from the code that ban same-sex marriage would do "a great injustice".

"We're all that we have right now," Harjo said. "We've got a big fight on our hands of other people trying to come in and this makes it even more difficult now because it would make a fight that would happen internally." 

Discussion of the issue begins at the 58:00 mark here.

Original Story: It’s been nearly a decade since same-sex marriage was legalized across the country. Now, thanks to a recently re-elected Muscogee Creek Nation Council Representative, that right could soon be on the books for Muscogee Creek citizens as well. 

Having served on the MCN Council from 2012 to 2017, Dode Barnett (Creek District Seat A) said she chose to run again in 2023 because she loves serving the Muscogee people and wants to elevate the nation’s good services to greatness, especially in the Nation’s rural communities.

Barnett said the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage came up multiple times during the last election cycle. 

“One of the questions people asked was if I was in favor of same sex marriage,” Barnett said. “And I said, I personally am in favor of same sex marriage. But feelings aside, it's the law.” 

Article II Section 2 of the Muscogee Creek Nation Constitution states “This Constitution shall not abridge the rights and privileges of individual citizens of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation enjoyed as citizens of the State of Oklahoma and of the United States of America”.

In 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage was a legal right and all state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. Oklahoma started recognizing same-sex marriage in 2014, after SCOTUS refused to review a decision that overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

But, Muscogee Creek Nation code, specifically TITLE 6. CHILDREN AND FAMILY RELATIONS (HOPUETAKE HVTVM CUKOHVMECVLKE  EMPVLSVLKE), still prohibits same gender marriage under § 2–104. The code also states that “A marriage between persons of the

same gender performed in another Indian Nation or state shall not be recognized as valid and binding in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation”. 

Barnett said the legislation she sponsored would remove language from the code that specifically bans same-sex marriage. 

“Everything else in that law stays the same,” Barnett said. “That's all I'm doing is basically removing those two or three sentences. And once we do that, we will have marriage equality in our tribe, which will also be following the law.” 

She said while about 80 percent of citizens who voiced their opinions about the amendment have been in support of it, she has received phone calls against it. 

“I listened to their reasons and they listened to my reasons why I introduced and sponsored this legislation,” Barnett said. “And at the end of those conversations, my mind wasn't changed and neither was theirs, but they were, you know, good conversations.”

Barnett said she was encouraged by the respectfulness of the conversations surrounding same-sex marriage, whether citizens were for it or against.

“And I think that that respect and love for one another, even if we don't agree with each other, that's what being Muscogee is about.,” Barnett said. “And so it makes me really proud that this legislation is at least getting people talking and having conversations and hopefully at the end of the month, we will have changed the law.” 

Click here to view Thursday’s full Business, Finance, & Justice Committee agenda. 

You can tune in live to the committee meeting online at 5 p.m. here

“At the end of the day, not only is it the right thing to do, but it also will be ensuring that the constitutional rights of all of our Muscogee citizens are protected and enjoyed to their fullest because that's their right,” Barnett said. 

If the legislation passes committee on Thursday, it will then advance to a full National Council vote on February 24. 

This story has been updated following the subcommittee vote on February 15, 2023.

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