Oklahoma Same-Sex Couple Legally Married By Tribal Law
It's a debate and an issue that has been fought for for quite a long time, same-sex marriage. The first legal same-sex marriage within the state of Oklahoma, one which is not even recognized by the state is catching national attention and fast.
In 2004, the State of Oklahoma voted that marriage was very much defined as 'one man and one woman.' However, thanks to the Supreme Court's recent decision striking down the Defense Against Marriage Act as unconstitutional, same-sex couple Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear discovered a loophole that would allow them to be married in their home state of Oklahoma.
The couple was already making arrangements to travel to Iowa, a state that does recognize same-sex couples and will allow them to legally marry. Before making the journey, Pickel called the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe's courthouse and asked a simple question.
"I was really expecting a big no," Pickel told KOCO "I thought, we're on our way to Iowa, but I called the tribe and they said, 'Yeah come on down, it's twenty bucks.'"
According to tribal code of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Both people must be of Native American descent and live within the jurisdiction of the tribe. Nowhere in the code does it specify gender.
Because the marriage was conducted on sovereign tribal land, state laws do not apply, nor can they attempt to stop it in anyway. Pickel states that although the state will not recognize their marriage, the federal government will.
According to the US Department of the Interior discussing Indian Affairs:
"The US Government recognizes Native American tribes as a seperate government entity for when the governmental authority of tribes was first challenged in the 1830's, U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall articulated the fundamental principle that has guided the evolution of federal Indian law to the present: That tribes possess a nationhood status and retain inherent powers of self-government."
Both of these tribes are federally recognized and do posses certain inherit rights of self-government.
Now that Pickel and Black Bear are married, the couple is allowed to file for federal tax credits that benefit couples. They plan to hold a wedding ceremony on Halloween. Pickel hopes this will pave the way for same-sex equality.
“When we have equality in all 50 states and all U.S. territories that is when we'll have true equality,” said Pickel. “That's when I will be truly, truly happy.