Meet Heather Purser, the Woman Who Singlehandedly Got Same-Sex Marriage Approved by the Suquamish Tribe

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Heather Purser and Rebecca Platter are now free to get married.
Heather Purser has no plans to marry her girlfriend anytime soon. But that doesn't mean that she wouldn't like the option.

And while the nation at large can't seem to wrap its head around the concept of marriage equality, the small Native American Suquamish Tribe of Kitsap County can and has. And the reason has a lot to do with Purser herself.

If you haven't heard, on Monday the Suquamish Tribe of Kitsap County approved same-sex marriage rights for all tribe members.

The decision was handed down by the tribal council following several impassioned pleas by Purser in the years and months prior.

"I went to the tribe about four or five years ago," Purser, a 28-year-old commercial diver, tells Seattle Weekly. "I said 'I'm a lesbian and I might want to get married someday, please extend me the same rights as everyone else.'"

To Purser's surprise, the council was supportive. But getting the councilmembers to actually act would take more than one appearance at a council meeting.

So Purser kept showing up. And kept showing up. And finally she started getting some traction. "It took a long time. It took a lot of me coming back again and saying 'Hey, I really want to do this,' she says. "I was kind of nervous about being so openly gay. It's one thing to be gay and be out, it's another thing to be asking for rights."

And on Monday, when the tribal council finally voted in favor of passing marriage equality?

"The room exploded with 'ayes,'" she says. "I was so shocked. I was really in disbelief because I had been expecting there to be a fight."

Purser's girlfriend of a year and a half, Rebecca Platter, a 26-year-old barista in Seattle, says that Purser's fight for marriage equality is right in line with her overall personality. "She's one of those people who you'd never be surprised if she accomplished something amazing," says Platter. "She'll never give up."

Both Purser and Platter say that the small Suquamish Tribe has a much more open and connected attitude toward its members and toward homosexuality in general. And both are hoping that some of that attitude can be passed along to other tribes and eventually to the entire nation.

"I think marriage is a right that all people should have," Purser says. "I don't think the nation understands that yet. But maybe they will soon."

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