TAHLEQUAH, Okla. -- A Cherokee Nation court has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the tribe from giving its legal blessing to a lesbian couple's marriage.
The Judicial Appeals Tribunal in its ruling yesterday said that tribe member and attorney Todd Hembree had no standing to sue and could not show that he suffered any harm by legal recognition of the same-sex marriage.
Dawn McKinley and Kathy Reynolds have not decided whether they will try again to file their tribal marriage certificate. Since the tribe is sovereign, Cherokee Nation marriage certificates are recognized just like Oklahoma marriage licenses.
The couple, both of whom are members of the tribe, exchanged vows in Cherokee in May 2004 after the tribe gave them the certificate without protest.
But Hembree sued and won an injunction that kept it from being filed.
After the couple wed, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council unanimously approved language defining a union as between one man and one woman.
Previously, tribal laws governing marriages used Cherokee terms for ''husband" and ''wife" that Hembree claimed were gender specific.
The couple contended the terms were not gender specific, and that the Cherokee words used in the marriage ceremony are ''cooker" for wife and ''companion" for husband. The court would still have to accept the certificate before it is filed.
''We're excited; we're happy," Reynolds said. ''We're determining what our next step is going to be."
Hembree, who serves as counsel to the tribe's legislative body, said the court's decision ends the case for him.