Our guest blogger is Erik Stegman, Manager for the Half in Ten campaign at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Inspired by the Coquille and Suquamish Tribes’ recent landmark decisions to recognize same-sex marriage, a cutting-edge legal guide has been developed to help tribal legislators strengthen LGBT equality in their governments and communities. The guide, “Tribal Equity Toolkit: Tribal Resolutions and Codes to Support Two Spirit and LGBT Justice in Indian Country,” is a first-of-its-kind collection of legal resources that helps tribal government officials identify discrimination in tribal codes and regulations and offers draft language to strengthen and promote LGBT equality. The toolkit was developed by the Indigenous Ways of Knowing Program at Lewis and Clark College in partnership with the Native American Program of Legal Aid Services of Oregon, Basic Rights Oregon, and the Western States Center. The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians also offered technical support to the project.
Although the final toolkit won’t be released until November, the project’s authors had a unique opportunity to present a draft to the general assembly of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, which is an association of the leadership 57 Northwest tribal governments. The toolkit covers a comprehensive range of legal areas where tribal leaders can improve the lives of LGBT tribal members. The family law section provides guides and sample language for marriage equality, adoption codes, visitation for LGBT parents, and even ways to strengthen the environment for LGBT native youth in the juvenile justice system. Other sections of the toolkit include employment nondiscrimination approaches, hate crime legislative options, housing nondiscrimination policies, and options to improve education, and health care.
Se-ah-dom Edmo, director of the Indigenous Ways of Knowing Program at Lewis & Clark College, stold the Indian Country Today Media Network that “our hope is to begin to construct a cohesive narrative about Two Spirit & LGBT Natives within our own Tribal communities and for those stories to compel us to take action.”
Basic Rights Oregon also produced a new video called “Our Families: LGBT Two Spirit Stories,” which tells the stories of LGBT tribal members and their families.
The toolkit is especially timely for the Northwest because of Referendum 74, a state ballot initiative in Washington State that would uphold marriage equality. Washington State has 29 federally recognized tribes, one of which, the Suquamish Tribe, has legalized same-sex marriage. There are 566 federally recognized tribes in the United States. As sovereign governments, tribal leaders have wide-ranging opportunities to promote LGBT equality in their agencies, police systems, courts, schools and business relationships. The final toolkit will be available on November 1.