Gay couple Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear aren’t letting a little thing like the fact that gay marriage is banned in Oklahoma get in the way of their right to equality. Both of Native American descent, the couple of 8 years were planning to take a trip to Iowa to get hitched, but that all changed when the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes allowed them to pick up a marriage license on Friday in the tribes’ courthouse.
When Pickel and Black Bear first asked the tribal courts for a marriage license in 2009, they were denied due to the federal Defense of Marriage Act which as we all know limited the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. When DOMA became history, the courts reconsidered. “People keep saying we found a loophole to get married in Oklahoma. But we’re not getting married in Oklahoma,” said Pickel. “We’re getting married in the sovereign nation of the Cheyenne Arapahoe Tribe.”
In an email, the tribes’ public relations officer Lisa Liebl clarified the decision to Al Jazeera America. Surprisingly enough, this wasn’t even the first same-sex marriage granted by the tribe. “This is the third same-sex couple to be issued a marriage license by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes,” she said.
Although their union is legal under tribal law, Oklahoma’s ACLU executive director Ryan Kiesel has his doubts about whether the state will follow suit. “I think this marriage under tribal law will likely not be recognized,” he said. “But I think the federal government will recognize this marriage, and fully anticipate that they will.”
Either way, Pickel is ecstatic about his union. “I proposed to Darren several years ago, and we were planning an elaborate wedding,” he said. “Now,” he added, “we decided the time was right. I’m so happy; it’s just amazing.”
Note to Oklahoma gays: keep fighting for marriage equality or start scouring that DNA for Native American ancestry, pronto!