The United States Supreme Court’s decision not to hear appeal’s in five state’s marriage equality cases has sent shockwaves throughout the region, especially in Wisconsin, where same-sex couples can now legally wed. Meanwhile, in North and South Dakota, LGBT American Indians are organizing.
One of the couples who sued Wisconsin for the right to marry announced their engagement on Monday just after the Supreme Court decision not to hear Wisconsin’s case. They exchanged engagement rings with blue stones to represent the ACLU which helped with the case.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who had been defending Wisconsin’s anti-gay marriage law, relented, saying, “It is now our obligation to comply with those court decisions.”
Gov. Scott Walker, who opposes marriage equality, also relented: “For us the fights over, and we’ll support the law as it is right now.”
Marriage were breaking out all over Wisconsin last week. The Steven’s Point Journal had some pointed questions for Portage County officials who seemed to do everything they could to stall gay nuptials.
“But by Tuesday, Portage County officials had figured out a way to address the clerical challenge. And just before noon, Rasmussen and Kitsembel became the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Stevens Point. They plan to be married at the courthouse Friday. Welcome to the institution, Allen and Keith. Sorry it took so long.”
The Minneapolis attorney representing seven North Dakota same-sex couples who are suing for marriage equality said that North Dakota could be the last state to achieve marriage equality.
He said it could “be remembered as one of the last states in the country to legalize same-sex marriage,” according to the Associated Press. The judge in the case has yet to advance the issue in court.
The Bismarck Tribune caught reactions from North Dakota’s elected and community leaders:
“By not taking up any of these appeals, the Supreme Court has sent a clear signal that it doesn’t need to step in and that the lower courts are making sound legal decisions,” said Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.
Rep. Joshua Boschee, D-Fargo, North Dakota’s first openly gay state lawmaker, said that he’s seeing great progress.
“We’ve definitely reached a tipping point,” he said. “Based on overwhelming precedents the courts have ruled on marriage equality.”
Indian Country Today featured LGBT and Two-Spirit American Indian North Dakotans in a special on National Coming Out Day. The stories tell some of the struggles and triumphs that come from the intersectional identities of being native and LGBT.
“I mean, it was North Dakota. I faced discrimination there as a woman, as a gay person, and as an American Indian person. When you have all these people around you your whole life telling you that there’s something innately dirty about you, innately wrong with you, you internalize that.”
Now, she says, at 30 years old, she finally feels like she loves herself. And part of that self-acceptance has come directly from being surrounded by traditional Lakota culture.
“Rhonnae and I go into a women’s sweat lodge together, we help out with coming of age ceremonies, we speak with elder Native women who are loving and embrace us and want to see our love flourish. I couldn’t experience that with her if she was a man, because we’d be on two different walks of that road. But we’re both Native, we’re both women, and we are able to bond a very meaningful way.”
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley responded to the U.S. Supreme Court decision by saying South Dakota voters support the restrictive definition of marriage.
The plaintiffs in the South Dakota marriage equality case reacted to the news of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, according to the Aberdeen News.
“Obviously, I’m excited about the ruling because it made so many more states legal,” Ashley Wright said Wednesday. “There are now, I believe, 30 states that have equality, and the people there can marry who they want. They can have the freedom they deserve, and it brings the remaining states one step closer to equality.”
*Members of South Dakota’s Two-Spirit community have organized, according to The Circle News:
Members of the newly-formed Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Two Spirit Society gathered on Sept. 26 to educate members of the tribe on LGBTQ Native issues while honoring one of their own who was killed earlier in the month.
The group – the first Two Spirit society in any of the nine reservations in South Dakota – began its mission in June of this year. A testament to the growing power of social media on the reservation, the event “Gay is OK” was the impetus for forming the society. “We all went out to the corner, stood outside and held signs. And while we were standing there, we talked about forming a society, so we set a meeting date and from then on, it’s been going ever since,” Vernon Renville, society co-founder said.
Iowa has its newest LGBT community center. On National Coming Out Day, the Des Moines Pride Center opened in the Robert Mickle Center in Iowa’s capital city.
“We want a safe space for people to be comfortable being themselves,” Marty Moore, president of center’s board, told the Des Moines Register. “It’s a space for them to go.”