Same-sex couple says, ‘I do’

Published 4:46 pm Thursday, June 20, 2013

Danny Hossler and Enrico Perez, partners for three years, married Thursday afternoon at the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians Tribal Court.

Not only were they the first gay couple married in Tribal Court, they were the first couple to marry via the Pokagon Band period, according to Hossler, a tribal member and former Hartford resident who will take Perez’s name.

Chief Judge Michael Petoskey excluded cameras from the proceeding, so the media waited outside for the Grand Rapids men to emerge from the Rodgers Lake courthouse off Sink Road into a flurry of blue petals thrown by family and friends.

Hossler is vice president of Vote Equal. Perez is volunteer coordinator for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) non-profit marriage equality organization.

“I never thought I’d get married,” Perez said. “I didn’t fathom that this would happen, but it’s here. He actually proposed to me onstage at a benefit in front of 350 people” on Valentine’s Day.

“It’s an historic day,” Perez said.

“It kind of makes me feel bad, too,” Hossler said. “We’re at a spot in our life where we’re able to do this, we were given a chance and we took full advantage of that. I love him, but my friends can’t. That’s kind of our message here today. It’s time.”

While Perez is not a tribal citizen, as a spouse he qualifies for health care benefits, for example, or first consideration for job opportunities.

March 9 the Pokagon Band Tribal Council adopted a code defining marriage as a civil contract.

“He wrote to (Chairman Matt Wesaw) last year, requesting they put it to a vote,” Perez said. “It was wonderful.”

“We started making plans the next day,” said Hossler, who is anxiously awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court’s imminent ruling on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

Reaction to their own nuptials from the tribe and the wider community has been overwhelmingly positive, they said.

“Good for you guys, congratulations,” Perez characterized the response. “I’ve seen little negativity. No honeymoon. Our reception’s on Saturday. Our life is a honeymoon. I’m high off the world right now. It’s amazing. This piece of paper is very important to me. It’s going on the wall in a nice frame. That’s us, our life together, forever.”

“I feel the same,” Hossler said. “It means the world to us. We got a little nervous and choked up, but finally, seven minutes later we’re done and here we come. A great day!”


Marriage Code statement

from the Pokagon Band

The Pokagon Band Tribal Council voted to pass a Marriage Code on March 9.

The Code establishes procedures for marriage within the Band’s reservation and the recognition of marriages performed outside of the Band’s Reservation.

Reservation refers to all lands held in trust by the United States for the Pokagon Band.

The Code applies to all marriages performed within the Band’s Reservation in which one or both parties are a Pokagon citizen and at least 18 years old.

In the enacted Code, marriage is defined as a civil contract between two persons, regardless of their sex, creating a union excluding all others.

Any person seeking to marry under the Code must obtain an application for a marriage license from the Tribal Court clerk and file the completed application for a marriage license with the Tribal Court.

The following are authorized to perform a marriage under the Code: a Native American medicine person or traditional spiritual leader, a judge of the Pokagon Band Trial Court or the Court of Appeals, or a member of the clergy recognized by his or her religion as having the authority to perform a marriage.

The Code doesn’t stipulate that marriage ceremonies performed must take any particular form, however. The persons seeking to marry must declare that they wish to marry each other in the presence of the person performing the marriage and at least two witnesses who are at least 18 years of age.


 Dowagiac Daily News