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Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to reconsider same-sex marriage

Published Tuesday, Aug. 10th, 2021

Cover image (cropped): Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park borders much of the Qualla Boundary.

An ordinance to legalize same-sex marriage on the Qualla Boundary has finally made it to the table, and will be discussed by the Eastern Band Tribal Council on September 9th. 


The ordinance was first introduced in June, but was denied a necessary first reading for two months in a row, breaking with the Tribal Council’s standard procedure.


Currently, same-sex marriage is not allowed on the Qualla Boundary, a territory located in western North Carolina and home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). The territory is nearly 56,000 acres (100 square miles), and includes parts of five NC counties: Cherokee, Jackson, Haywood, Swain, and Graham.


As a sovereign nation, the Eastern Band follows its own marriage laws, and isn’t required to recognize the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal across the U.S.  Although LGBTQ+ members of the Eastern Band tribe can legally enter same-sex marriages in the state of North Carolina, their unions won’t be recognized by the tribe. 


The Tribal Council will need to act on the ordinance by next month for it to become law. 


Get the full scoop in Holly Kays’ article for Smoky Mountain News.


The current law, as stated in the EBCI Code of Ordinances


Chapter 50 - Family Law; Article I. - Marriage: 
Sec. 50-1. - Marriage: 

The institution of marriage between a man and a woman is recognized in the territory of the Eastern Band and shall be officially solemnized by any ordained minister or any judicial official of the Cherokee Court. For a marriage to be legally recognized, a couple seeking to marry shall obtain a marriage license from, and record it with, the register of deeds in their county of residence. Alternatively, members of the Eastern Band may elect to obtain a marriage license from, and record it with, the Cherokee Court. The licensing and solemnization of same sex marriages are not allowed within this jurisdiction.
(Ord. No. 504, 12-20-2000; Ord. No. 381 , 12-16-2014)



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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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