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Spoof Awards 2021: Improv Award

Yellowhill community member Mary Crowe speaks with LGBTQ advocates outside the Cherokee Council House July 8, following Tribal Council’s second refusal to consider an ordinance legalizing same-sex marriage. Holly Kays photo Yellowhill community member Mary Crowe speaks with LGBTQ advocates outside the Cherokee Council House July 8, following Tribal Council’s second refusal to consider an ordinance legalizing same-sex marriage. Holly Kays photo

The Cherokee Tribal Council displayed profound mastery of improv’s cornerstone rule of thumb, “Yes, and,” as it spent much of the year inventing reasons not to consider an ordinance seeking to lift the tribe’s hard-line ban  on same sex marriage. 

Tribal member Tamara Thompson first submitted the ordinance for June council , expecting that, as occurs for every ordinance ever placed on the agenda, it would be deemed read and tabled, and then considered for a vote in July. 

That didn’t happen. Instead, Council members left it out of the motion that brought the other newly introduced ordinances forward to the July agenda. Chairman Adam Wachacha said the ordinance would now be considered dead, citing a section of the Cherokee Code that does not in fact contain a provision backing up that declaration. Thompson resubmitted the ordinance for July, and the same thing happened. When it appeared on the agenda for the third time , in August, Tribal Council finally — albeit with a divided vote — allowed it to be read into the record. 

When the ordinance came up for a vote in September, it elicited two hours of discussion but still met opposition  from the majority of Council members, who voted to keep in place a 2014 tribal law adopted to “protect the institution of marriage” following court cases that struck down gay marriage bans nationwide. As a sovereign nation, the EBCI was exempt from the effects of that ruling. 

The gay marriage ban is a slap in the face to the tribe’s homosexual members, speaker after speaker told Council this September, sometimes through tears. But it is also largely symbolic. Tribal members can register homosexual marriages at the county courthouse, and the tribe extends full faith and credit to marriages recognized in such other jurisdictions. 

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