Brides Look Forward to Marrying Under Tribal Same-Sex Marriage Law

Tribal leaders say Coquille tribe may be the first to allow gay marriage.

ByABC News
August 26, 2008, 3:12 PM

Aug. 27, 2008— -- A request from a bride-to-be has led an Oregon Indian tribe to legalize same-sex marriage, a move leaders say may be the first of its kind in the United States.

The Coquille Indian Tribe now not only recognizes legal same-sex unions from state and federal governments, but it will soon be handing out its own marriage licenses not only to heterosexual couples, but to homosexual couples as well.

Kitzen Branting is like a lot of other brides who have come before her: She has already found her wedding dress, set a date for the ceremony and proudly wears her engagement ring.

But her journey to the altar has been a bit different than most, since she requested new tribal legislation sanctioning same-sex marriage. Branting, 25, and her fiancee, Jeni Branting, plan to be married in May under the tribe's new law.

The high school sweethearts have already gathered all the legal documents they are allowed -- wills, powers of attorney and domestic partnership registry -- but they wanted a legal ceremony from the tribe in which Kitzen Branting was raised.

"What I asked them was to be willing to recognize homosexual marriages," she said.

Before the tribe ruled on Kitzen Branting's request in May, the Coquilles did not have a policy defining marriage and did not perform ceremonies or hand out marriage licenses of any kind. Like most other American Indian tribes, the Coquilles have their own laws and customs.

"Native Americans, more than anyone, know about discrimination," Coquille Indian Tribe Chief Ken Tanner told "Our directive is to provide recognition and respect to all members of our tribe."

The clause about issuing marriage licenses, however, will not go into effect until the tribe passes legislation on divorce and child custody procedures, according to Coquille tribe attorney Brett Kenney.

But Kenney said he's optimistic that the tribe will be performing marriages before Kitzen and Jeni Branting are ready to walk down the aisle in May.

"I have a deadline now," Kenney said, laughing.

Tanner, 68, said the tribe's law was not intended to make a statement about gay marriage or advocate for similar legislation from any other tribe or governing body.