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Lesbian who persuaded her tribe to legalize marriage equality

SUQUAMISH TRIBE, Wash. — For Heather Purser, the first pang came more than a decade ago as she gathered clams on Puget Sound’s Chico Beach, watching her cousin’s new husband assist with the digging. She figured she’d never have a legal spouse to help with the backbreaking work.

Then Purser, a member of Washington state’s Suquamish Tribe who knew she was gay at age 7, decided to act: She led a personal lobbying campaign that ended with her tribal council voting in 2011 to approve gay marriage.

“I realized that I do have the power to change my situation,” said Purser, 30, a commercial seafood diver from Olympia.

With more Native Americans making similar demands, the Suquamish Tribe now is one of three that has signed off on marriage by same-sex couples.

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