Two gay men made history by becoming the first same-sex couple to wed in Oklahoma — a monumental feat considering gay unions aren’t legal in the state.
The matrimony was made possible after Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear discovered a legal loophole that has never before been utilized. While the two had been hoping to marry for the last five years, legal restrictions have made doing so impossible — or so they thought.
After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key language in the Defense of Marriage Act in June, Pickel got an idea. Before heading to Iowa where gay marriage is legal, he decided to call the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal courthouse to inquire about the Native American tribes’ rules about same-sex marriage, KOCO-TV reported.
To Pickel’s surprise, he found out tribal code requires only that both parties be of Native American decent and live within the tribe’s jurisdiction. Gender is not an impeding factor. And since state law does not apply on these sovereign lands, the two were legally — under tribal regulations — permitted to marry.
After learning this, Pickel and Bear headed down to the courthouse, paid the $20 licensing fee and got hitched.
“That’s the biggest trip I’ve had so far. I’m not even sure how to even react,” Pickel told KOCO. “I’m very excited about getting married. It’s been 8 1/2 years.”
While Pickel believes the state government may try to avoid recognizing the marriage, he says officials will be forced to do so because of the dynamic that exists between tribal, state and federal law.
Pickel and Bear hope other gay couples will follow the same blueprint — and it seems some already have. Gay rights blog Joe My God listed some of the Native American tribes across America that have previously recognized gay marriage:
Native American tribes that have approved same-sex marriage: The Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon (2009), The Suquamish Tribe in Washington state (2011), the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Michigan (2013), The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington state (2013), the Pokagon Band of PotawatomiIndians in Michigan (2013), and the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel in California (2013).
Pickel and Bear will hold an open wedding ceremony on Halloween to celebrate their legal union.
Featured image via KOCO-TV