(Emily Fox/Michigan Radio)
McNamara, far right, performed a ceremony for LaCroix and Barfield after signing the new law. (Emily Fox/Michigan Radio)

Same-Sex Marriage Is A-OK With Little Traverse Bay Bands

Brenda Austin

The Little Traverse Bay Bands (LTBB) of Odawa Indians in Harbor Springs, Michigan made history March 3 when their council voted 5–4 to recognize same-sex marriages on their reservation. This was the second time in as many years the proposed statute was brought up for a vote by the council, who rejected it 5–4 last summer. At a council member’s request, a provision was then added requiring that at least one member of the same-sex couple be a tribal citizen, and that seemed to swing the vote.

The tribe hopes it has opened the door for other tribes to follow. It has now joined at least two other tribes in the United States who recognize same-sex marriages; the Coquille Tribe in North Bend, Oregon and the Suquamish Tribe in Suquamish, Washington.

LTBB Chairman Dexter McNamara signed the statute into law on March 15, and just minutes later, the tribe again made history by performing a marriage ceremony for two men who recently celebrated their 30th anniversary. Tim LaCroix, 53, a member of the tribe and Gene Barfield, 60, became the first same-sex couple in Michigan to exchange rings and a kiss in front of family and friends at the tribe’s (Annette VanDeCar/LTBB Communications Coordinator)administrative complex during a ceremony that blended traditional Native culture with Western vows. During the ceremony, a maple sapling was bent into a hoop and cedar, sage, tobacco and sweetgrass were tied to it. The sweetgrass was lit and the hoop was moved over and around the couple to invite good spirits while warding off bad ones. As the tribal chairman pronounced them married, the men joyfully embraced and accepted congratulatory handshakes and hugs from those around them.

“This is about tribal people being happy,” McNamara said, adding that he is happy to report he has been approached by another tribal chairman in Michigan who may be considering changes to his tribe’s marriage law and asked for a copy of LTBB’s new statute. McNamara believes it’s just a matter of time before changes will occur at the state level as well. Michigan prohibits same-sex marriages under an amendment to the state constitution passed by voters in 2004 and does not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Newlywed Tim LaCroix said, “When the day came we seized the moment and we are extremely happy about it. I can’t say enough about our tribe doing that for us.” ­LaCroix’s proud husband, Barfield, said, “That [the tribe] created this opportunity is incredibly important in so many ways—even in today’s day and age when there are gay people on TV, in Congress and LGBT people all over the place—it is still incredibly important for communities to stand up and act on equality. Every time a signal like this gets sent, the door is pushed open a little wider and there is more room for people to live their lives.”

Denise Petoskey is the human resources director for the LTBB and was one of two women who pushed for the resolution to be brought back to the council for a vote. She believes the new law is “representative of our traditional values of respect, love and honesty. Even if people don’t totally understand it, I think they accept that it is a matter of individual choice.”

Barfield said as far as he and LaCroix are concerned they are legally married. “The tribe is sovereign and this is a duly passed law and we happened to be lucky enough to be first in line,” he said. “When you think about the institution of marriage itself having such a difficult time, I can’t help but think that all these other people who are trying to buy into that institution can’t help but strengthen it. We are not trying to break marriage; we are a part of marriage now. We want marriage to be a good thing for everybody.

“I wish people would tread lightly in each other’s lives.”

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Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui's picture
Jean-Jacques Bu...
Submitted by Jean-Jacques Bu... on
Same-sex marriage disregards the natural order of procreatory responsibility, not only confusing the natural disposition of parental authority; but undermining the legal principle that children have a right to a relationship with their biological parents, depriving a child access to their biological parent’s genetic, cultural and social heritage, not for extraordinary circumstances, but as a matter of routine. Same-sex marriage amounts to institutionalized adultery through a hostile takeover of civil society by the State. Children will no longer be entitled to their biological parents, as the transitory wants of same-sex adults will have taken precedence over a child’s best interest. Children are not pets one purchases from rescue shelters(adoption clinics) and puppy mills(insemination and surrogacy). Children are human beings endowed with a natural desire to be procreated from an engendered act of love between a husband and a wife. Same-sex marriage is adulterous by nature and thereby destructive to not only children, but to our civilization. Here are two truths regarding marriage: (1) A man creating a family with another man is not equal to creating a family with a woman, and (2) denying children parents of both genders at home is an objective evil. Kids need and yearn for both. Same-sex marriage proponents demand “Marriage Equality”, yet, in return, they offer less-than-equal protection of the child’s happiness than can be afforded through the presence of both biological parents. Same-sex proponents profess that it is love which gives the right to join the institution of marriage, yet, in doing so, they selfishly violate the principle loving objective of this noble institution; to protect a child’s Natural Right to be raised by both biological parents. Same-sex marriage is not justice in the eyes of a child. Same-sex marriage is an abuse of power, a tyrannical subversion of the fundamental principles of marriage and the duties which it enjoins; contrary to the nature and state of man, same-sex marriage is merely the unwarranted whims of an ignorant and selfish generation whose conduct is nothing less that an embarrassment to the dignity of mankind. In fine, same-sex marriage is an unnatural extravagance which the supporters most ignorantly claim to be a “right”. “No one has a right to do that which, if everybody did it, would destroy society.” ---Immanuel Kant

Pediowoman's picture
Submitted by Pediowoman on
Good for them!!! No need to carry the Whiteman's hate and bigotry into Indian Country. These things were not an issue until the whites forced their religion on sick, starving and homeless Indians that were given no choice in the matter. Time to move back to the old ways.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Isn't it ironic how a country begins CLAIMING that all men are created equal only to wage cultural/racial genocide on Native People because they are "savages." Isn't it ironic how a country CLAIMING to hold dear equal rights and "the pursuit of happiness" as its strengths discriminates against a large segment of society because of sexual preference. I'm glad to see that HATRED is not an Indian trait.