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Native American Men First to Legally Wed in Oklahoma

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Tuesday Oct 22, 2013

Two Native American men found a way to circumvent state law in Oklahoma, by getting wed on tribal land where the laws preventing same-sex marriage don't apply. This is the first instance of a legal marriage in a place where such a union is prohibited.

According to Oklahoma City ABC affiliate KOCO, long-term partners Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear had planned to go to nearby Iowa to tie the knot when they decided to give a call to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe's courthouse.

"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 twenty bucks.'" They were wed, and plan to hold a celebration on Halloween.

The nuptials are legal per the tribal code, because the two men are both of Native American descent, and live within the tribe's jurisdiction. There is no mention of gender in the tribal code's marriage laws.

A related report on notes that Native American tribes have a certain degree of sovereignty under U.S. law, including the right to make their own marriage and divorce laws. Additionally, homophobia is not as pervasive among Native people; some tribal hierarchies even revere "two-spirit" people or berdaches, as they are known.

While the marriage is not recognized by Oklahoma the couple will be eligible for federal benefits such as tax credits, thanks to the Supreme Court's repeal of section two of the Defense of Marriage Act.

"I do know at the end of the day the state offices won't recognize it, but they kind of have to," Pickel said. "When we have equality in all 50 states and all U.S. territories, that is when we'll have true equality and that's when I will be truly, truly happy."

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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