Two Very Clever Gays Get Married In Oklahoma — Under Native American Tribal Law

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!

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  • Dakotahgeo

    Congratulations and all the best to both of the happy Grooms/Husbands!
    Dakotahgeo, M.Div. Pastor/Chaplain

  • bolloxok

    Go Oklahomos! My husband and I had to travel all the way to Calfornia last month to get hitched. Congrats!!!

  • aerogens

    This is so touching! I wish them many happy years together!

  • Dxley

    Out of curiosity, why are people so obsessed with marriage?

  • Cam


    Out of curiosity, why wouldn’t they be?

    There is still a situation where people are denied the civil rights granted to any other person in the country.

    People who weren’t in the military were interested in getting rid of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell because it was another example of the Federal govt. saying gays are second class citizens. The same way even people who aren’t married and don’t want to be are interested in the marriage battle. It isn’t about what you want to do, it’s about not being equal.

  • RSun

    @Cam: I agree Cam. I likely will want to get married, but I think everyone should be given that choice.

  • RSun

    That should be “I likely will never want to get married,…”

  • Jonty Coppersmith


    Some of us like to know that we have our best friend, our love to come home to each day, to hold hands through life when times are good and when they are bad. Marriage is good for financial security, improved mental health, and studies show that married people tend to live longer. It might not be for everyone, but really what’s not to be obsessed with?
    It’s a good thing, and whether you’re interested or not you should appreciate having the right in case you ever feel differently.

  • yaoming

    @Dxley: I think were less “obsessed with marriage” than obsessed with equal rights. If it’s good enough for whites, males, heteros, etc., it’s good enough for everyone.

  • Will L

    Hurray for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe!

    I had noticed recently that a tribe in Washington state legalized it. The tribes of Oklahoma are (for the most part) very accepting whether it is written or not. Some of the younger have been influenced by peers in school but the Elders try to correct that mindset. I’m really proud of the Cheyenne and Arapaho taking a positive stand.

  • Pix


    In addition to what others said there are legal reasons as well. Once married (“civil unions” do NOT count) you are considered family in the eyes of the law which means you have visitation rights you might otherwise be denied, can make medical decisions for the other, have rights to notification & information you would not if “not family” and the biological family cannot take what you accumulated together after one dies and then bar you from the funeral if you’re married, but can and do if you’re “mere roomies” (and civil unions don’t make you family in the eyes of the law as marriage does). There are other benefits as well which can come in useful for social security, taxes, and insurance. If there are kids involved then there are even more reasons.

  • sfbeast

    How great that their tribes recognized their marriage. The license may even be a foot in the door to make gay marriage legal in Oklahoma.

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