Tribal law helps Oklahoma gay couple marry despite state ban
A gay couple in Oklahoma is believed to be the first to publicly beat the state’s ban on marriage equality after getting married under the auspices of Native American tribal law.
According to KOCO-TV, Jason Pickel and boyfriend Darren Black Bear had anticipated going to Iowa, where LGBT couples have been allowed to marry since 2009, for their wedding before Pickel contacted the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Court to see if they would grant them a marriage license, since the state ban would not apply on sovereign Native American territory.
“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 20 bucks.'”
As Al Jazeera America reported, the tribes’ bill of rights bars them from enacting or enforcing laws which “discriminates against any Person based on age, gender, religion, disability, familial status, sexual orientation, or social or economic status.” The document also does not specify genders when dealing with marriage. Both partners are only required to be of Native American descent and live within the tribes’ jurisdiction.
The decision was also made possible by the Supreme Court ruling in June 2013 which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA); the Huffington Post reported that the couples’ first appeal to the court, in 2009, was denied. Marriage equality was rejected by 76 percent of Oklahoma voters in 2004.
“When we have equality in all 50 states and all U.S. territories, that is when we’ll have true equality,” Pickel told KOCO. “That’s when I will be truly, truly happy.”
Watch KOCO’s report, aired on Tuesday, below.