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Some tribes allow gay couples to marry despite state bans

By Kristi Eaton

Associated Press


OKLAHOMA CITY » Darren Black Bear hasn't thought too much about his upcoming nuptials. Maybe khaki pants, and he doesn't mind if guests show up in Halloween costumes even though the wedding will be a rare sight: He and his partner are getting legally married in Okla­homa even though the state bans same-sex marriage.

How? His bloodline.

Black Bear and his partner of nine years, Jason Pickel, plan to walk each other down the aisle Thursday, surrounded by family and friends, before signing a marriage license granted by the Cheyenne Ara­paho Tribes. Black Bear, 45, is a member of the Okla­homa-based tribe, which is among the few Native American tribes in the U.S. that allow same-sex marriage.

Like all federally recognized tribes, the Cheyenne Ara­paho can approve laws for its land and members. Its code regarding marriage doesn't address gender, referring to the parties simply as "Indians," and requires that one person be a member of the tribe and reside within its jurisdiction.

It was on a whim, sparked in part by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision earlier this year to grant federal benefits to same-sex couples, that Pickel, 36, called the tribe to see whether he and Black Bear could marry under tribal law instead of getting married in Iowa or another state where gay marriage was legal.

"Surprisingly enough, they told him that yes, they had already married one couple, and that it's $20 to get married," Black Bear said.

"I'm just really happy we are able to finally get married," Pickel said. "And one day, when we have true equality in all 50 states, we will hopefully have all the same benefits and rights in every state."

At least six other tribes allow same-sex marriage, including the Coquille Tribe in Oregon and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Michigan, states that also ban same-sex marriage, according to national gay marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry. Other tribes, such as the Cherokee Nation, specifically bar gay marriage.

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs said it doesn't track how many of the nation's hundreds of recognized tribes allow same-sex marriage.

Like gay couples who legally marry in other states, Black Bear and Pickel won't be awarded state benefits given to married couples in Okla­homa. But they will receive federal marriage benefits, and they said a primary reason they decided to marry was to enable Pickel to be added to Black Bear's health insurance.

Still, both men said they wanted to show their commitment to each other, and to encourage other tribes and states to adopt similar laws. The couple decided to become more outspoken after they were refused a room at an extended-stay hotel in another state because of their relationship, which resulted in Pickel — long the more vocal of the pair — convincing a local television station to report on the controversy.

"We just want the same benefits, and we just want to be treated the same," Black Bear said, noting he was grateful for the tribal law.

"I've always been an advocate for equal rights, so I guess it's kind of natural that it (the wedding) would be public," Pickel said.

Black Bear's father has told his son he would be honored to officiate the wedding.

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HanabataDays wrote:
This just demonstrates how both Polynesian and Native American cultures didn't and don't make a big deal out of same-gender relationships. Another area in which modern American society could learn from them.
on October 25,2013 | 05:14AM
Cricket_Amos wrote:
They did not make a big deal out of it because no one was stupid enough to believe that marriage could be between a man and a woman. It would have been on the same level of delusion as believing that you could grow corn by throwing the seeds on rocks.
on October 25,2013 | 05:55AM
localguy wrote:
Cricket_Amos - Truly you are a product of the Nei's failing education system. These and other cultures never had the discrimination of other cultures. It was not in their nature. In so many ways they are so far ahead of us, letting people enjoy their lives in the way they want. Hmmm, doesn't our constitution say, "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?" Sad to say many dysfunctional people still try to spin it as marriage to animals, on and no. Obviously products of poor breeding. Can't we all just get along?
on October 27,2013 | 09:49AM
mikethenovice wrote:
I'm OK with this as long as it's not in Hawaii. Hawaii is too pure to taint it.
on October 25,2013 | 05:19AM
peanutgallery wrote:
This is how progressive liberals act. They could care less about following laws. IF it feels good, it must be right is their mantra. Just like the current administration. The only way this agenda moves forward is without public input. The public has repeatedly said "no". Domestic partnership agreements are another matter. Most seemed to think it was time, but the glt community decided that wasn't good enough for them. They wanted to poke society in the eye, and go after the institution of marriage. It's what the left does. The destroy, rather than create. It's why our country is failing so miserably under Obama.
on October 25,2013 | 05:19AM
soundofreason wrote:
"Darren Black Bear (left), a member of Oklahoma’s Cheyenne Arapaho Tribes will be able to marry his partner of nine years, Jason Pickel," >>> That'll really put him in a pickel
on October 27,2013 | 08:59AM
palani wrote:
Or a Pickel in him. Ouch!
on October 27,2013 | 11:02AM
cojef wrote:
Allie, do the tribes in N/S Dakota allow same sex marriages? Drove through Glacier National Park and pass by Flathead Lake in Montana where the Flathead Indians live and play. Wonder if they flatheads?
on October 27,2013 | 10:52AM
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