Shouts of joy and hugs were abundant after the results of the Osage Nation’s 2017 Special Election were announced.
In a historic vote, Osages voted “yes” by referendum to recognize gay marriage by law. It is the first ON election where a legislative referendum question asked voters whether a tribal law should be amended.
“This was overdue,” said Osage tribal member Jennifer Tiger, who drove from California to vote in person. “The United States Supreme Court recognized gay marriage two years ago. This was long overdue.”
In complete, but unofficial results, Osages approved the same-sex marriage question with 52.38 percent voting in favor of amending the definition of marriage to recognize “a personal relation between two persons.”
Voters also passed a Constitutional amendment question with an 82.18 percent “yes” vote. This amendment changes the constitution to add: “the annual budget of the Osage Nation shall be governed by the principles of transparency and accountability, and the budgetary process encompassing those principles shall be set forth in Osage law.”
Congresswoman Alice Buffalohead said the “yes” vote for the Constitutional amendment question is the highest she can recall. Constitutional amendment questions require 65 percent of the “yes” vote to pass.
Buffalohead is also the congresswoman who lead the charge to get the Osage Nation Congress to vote in favor of gay marriage, and when they wouldn’t, she lead the charge to get it on a ballot for a referendum vote.
“We’re thankful for all the Osages who voted in this election. The time for discrimination is over,” she said.
The Election Office staff and board members announced the results at 9:02 p.m. in front of the ON Congressional Chambers building. About 20 spectators waited to hear the results.
Among them was Tulsa-based Henry Roanhorse Gray, the organizer behind the Facebook page “Osage Citizens for Marriage Equality.” He brought an LGBT Pride Flag and hugged Buffalohead and Tiger as they discussed what would happen next now that the law had been passed.
According to Election Supervisor Alexis Rencountre, 1,123 Osages submitted absentee ballots that were received in time to be counted. During the two days of early voting, 67 Osages voted March 17-18 and 280 Osages voted in-person on March 20.
This year’s voter turnout is 1,470, which is 9.8 percent of the 15,007 registered voters, according to the unofficial election results.
The Osage Nation now joins the Cherokee Nation and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe as the only tribal nations in Oklahoma to recognize gay marriage.