The first federally recognized same-sex marriage will happen on the Coquille reservation

Kitzen Branting (wearing red top) and Jeni Branting may be the first federally recognized lesbian marriage

In a move as confusing as it is exciting the Coquille Tribe on the southern Oregon coast has just legalized marriage on their land. And Kitzen and Jeni Branting, in a committed lesbian relationship since high school, will soon be legally wed.

Though most Native American cultures have been fairly accepting of a wide range of genders and sexualities, sometimes honoring “two-spirits” as shamans, contemporary tribal laws have mostly banned same-sex marriage.

According to Brian Gilley, anthropology professor at the University of Vermont and author of the book, Becoming Two-Spirit: Gay Identity and Social Acceptance in Indian Country, “Because the Coquille is federally recognized, a marriage “occurring within the tribe would actually be federally recognized.”

This is where it gets tricky.

The definition of “sovereign nation” within the U.S. is not one I find particularly clear. And indeed, if the federal government decides to challenge this couple’s right to marry under tribal law it could become quite the contested test case. There’s no precedent.

This makes me wonder about the tribal laws themselves and what this means for Native Americans, Oregonians and Americans in general. If same-sex marriages become legal on the reservation could non-natives (or indeed, members or other tribes, or couples wherein one partner is Coquille but lives off-reservation) travel to, or get permission to get married there? Would it be recognized once they returned home? What does this mean for immigration rights between same-sex couples or other tribal laws that may come into conflict with federal law in general?

But before I get caught up in my usual cautiousness I also want to make sure I take a moment and congratulate Kitzen and Jeni on their upcoming nuptials. Congrats ladies. I wish you all the best.

1 comment to The first federally recognized same-sex marriage will happen on the Coquille reservation

  • drubage

    Amen. Congrats, ladies. Best of luck to you both, and to every other couple who’s had to put up with all the legal and religious BS.