By Emily Fox, Michigan Radio
Two men from Boyne City were the first same sex couple in Michigan to be legally married. The ceremony took place Friday, only minutes after the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians signed a statue to legalize gay marriage within the tribe.
The two men have been together 30 years. Newlywed Tim LaCroix is a member of the Odawa tribe. His spouse, Gene Barfield is not. Under their tribal marriage, Barfield will now get spousal benefits from the tribe.
“I’m so proud of my tribe, for doing this for Gene and I,” says LaCroix. “It means a lot, not just for Gene and I but for all tribal members, for Native Americans in Michigan and elsewhere.”
“I believe that all tribal citizens have equal rights,” says Tribal Chairman Dexter McNamara. He signed the statute and married the couple. “There’s no dividing line in this tribe as far as I’m concerned.”
The Odawa tribe is the first tribe in Michigan, and one of only three in the nation, to legalize same sex marriage.
“I’m just really excited and proud to be Odawa and I think it’s amazing and I hope other people take our lead,” says Denise Petoskey, who proposed the same sex marriage statute to the tribe last year.
Just last week the tribal council for the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi passed similar legislation.
A spokesperson for Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office says the tribal marriages will not be recognized by the state of Michigan.