Oklahoma couple Darren Black Bear and Jason Pickel have become the third same-sex couple to be married by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes – the seventh US tribal nation to allow same-sex couples to do so.
The lands of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes are the only part of Oklahoma where same-sex couples may legally marry as the state passed a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in 2004.
However at least one half of the couple must be a member of the tribe for them to marry them.
The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes granted Black Bear and Pickel a marriage certificate 18 October in the tribe’s courthouse.
The couple, who have been together nine years, originally planned to travel to Iowa to marry but then Black Bear decided to contact his tribe to see if they would marry him to Pickel.
He expected to be turned down but got a pleasant surprise when they said yes.
The couple intend to hold a small ceremony with friends and family later this week, with Black Bear’s father, the Rev Floyd Black Bear officiating.
A spokesperson for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes told the Los Angeles Times that the tribe had begun marrying same-sex couples last December but had not sought to publicize it.
Native American tribes that are recognized by the US Government have the same power to pass their own laws within their territories as US states.
Washington state’s Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation council voted in September to legalize same-sex marriages on their lands, becoming the sixth US Native American tribal nation to publicly do so.
Oregon’s Coquille tribe began marrying same-sex couples in 2009 and Washington state’s Suquamish Tribe began doing so in 2011 while Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians did so in March this year.
Michigan’s Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians also began marrying same-sex couples earlier this year.
Pokagon, Coquille and Odawa lands are the only parts of Oregon and Michigan where same-sex couples may wed as the states have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.
There are reports that the Santa Ysabel Band of Diegueño Mission Indians in California are also allowing same-sex couples to marry.