The idea that same-sex relationships are immoral is "an imposed Western belief" that contradicts the traditional native concept that people have "two spirits" with male and female natures, she said.
McNamara, who could have vetoed the measure, said he considered it a simple matter of providing equal rights for all tribal citizens. "Everyone has a different view of what love is, and all are deserving of respect," he said.
He signed the bill in the tribal government building to applause from several dozen onlookers. Shortly afterward, LaCroix and Barfield — dressed casually in open-necked shirts and sweaters affixed with white lapel flowers — stepped forward to become the first couple wed under its provisions.
After reciting pledges to each other, they were presented with a slender maple limb bent into a hoop that represents the four stages of life. Using ribbon of different colors, they knotted sacred plants — tobacco, cedar, sage and sweetgrass — to the wood.
Although their relationship began three decades ago in the U.S. Navy, they said marriage was important to fulfill a longtime dream and to send a message to others.
"We want to show people in the gay community that you can do this — you can have a sustained, fulfilling relationship and people will accept you," LaCroix said. "Times are changing."
The men are unsure whether they'll be able to file taxes as a couple or whether Barfield will be recognized as a dependent by LaCroix's health insurer. Other legal hurdles remain. But on Friday, they shared cake with well-wishers and relished their status as a married couple.
"There's no way I can love him more than I already have, but this is still a whole new thing," Barfield said. "My husband — I can't believe I'm finally saying that."