Native American Gay Couple to Marry

Gay Native American Couple to marry

A Native American gay couple, who live in Oklahoma, have stated they plan to take full benefit of a tribal law which will allow them to marry one another, even though gay marriages are banned in the state.

Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear plan on getting married on Oct. 31. They were given a marriage license last week through the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribal Court. This Native American court does not specify any gender in its law and it is not subject to what Oklahoma says is state law.

Since the word is out about their upcoming nuptials, Pickel and Black Bear have been put into mainstream spotlights over one of the most sensitive topics in the state. The law still says gay marriage is illegal in Oklahoma.

Black Bear is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe, which is located in Concho, OK. The combined tribes do not postulate any gender in their laws regarding to marriage, referring to those that are involved only as “Indians.” Even though Pickel is not a tribe member, after the marriage he will be entitled to federal benefits which are for married same-sex couples.

Pickel explained that people kept saying to them that they had found a loophole and were now able to get married in Oklahoma. But he added they are not getting married in the state itself. They are taking their vows in what is considered an independent nation and that is the Cheyenne Arapahoe Tribe.

Three-quarters of Oklahoma voters decided in 2004 to support an amendment to the state’s constitution which defined marriage as a union between only a man and a woman. But the story is different elsewhere. Gay marriage has become legal in 14 American states. The most recent one is New Jersey, and along with the District of Columbia.

When the two men first asked the tribal courts about a marriage license back in 2009, they were turned down because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act which restricted the marriage definition to being between only one man and woman.

This past June, the U.S. Supreme Court gave a milestone victory for gay rights by making the federal government recognize same-sex marriages in the states where it was considered legal.

This ruling has led to various challenges in federal and state courts. It also made Black Bear and Pickel look at other options on how they might be able to legally get married. It helped them decide to check into other options because they had no intention of giving up. The two of them have been together for eight years and wanted to finally become legally married.

Lisa Liebl, who is a spokesperson for the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes stated that the tribal law necessitates that either of the two spouses be of Native American lineage and must live within the confines of the tribe to be able to issue a marriage certificate.
This couple is the third same-sex partnership that has asked for a marriage license by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, she also explained.

Pickel added that he hoped one day a gay couple would be able to walk into any courthouse and get married. By being part of a Native American gay couple that plans on getting married, he may be helping to pave that way.


Written by: Kimberly Ruble

LA Times

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