Robert Laurence

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American Indian law and gay-marriage recognition would not, at first glance, seem to be fields of study related to one another. Professor Laurence, however, finds three places where the two fields conjoin. First is what he calls the issue of "definitional jurisprudence," that is to say how does the law define its key terms "tribe" with respect to American Indian law and "marriage" with respect to family law--and what are the jurisprudential limitations on changing the traditional definition? Second, to what extent do the standard principles of equal protection jurisprudence vary regarding such unique minorities as American Indians, on the one hand, and those whose sexual orientation is out of the mainstream, on the other? And third, regarding the cross-boundary recognition of local policy choices, how, if it all, does the tribal experience of upholding ancient traditions against conflicting dominant society norms relate to the question of whether states must adopt a consistent definition of marriage? In the end, Professor Laurence argues that the principles of American Indian law, while advancing policies different from those at issue in gay-marriage recognition, support the tolerance for diversity that lies at the heart of the debate over gay marriage.

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Northern Illinois University Law Review

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Robert Laurence, What Could American Indian Law Possibly Have to Do with the Issue of Gay-Marriage Recognition?: Definitional Jurisprudence, Equal Protection and Full Faith and Credit, 24 N. Ill. U. L. Rev. 563 (2004).

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