Wanna Get Gay Married in Oklahoma? Be Part Indian
So the state of Oklahoma won’t let gays get married? Pfft. Technicality.
On October 10, 2013, Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear were issued a marriage license by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe’s courthouse. Both Jason and Darren have Native American heritage, one of their tribal court’s requirements. Additionally, the couple must live within the jurisdiction of the issuing tribe. Even though the tribe’s courthouse is located on Oklahoma land, because of its status as a sovereign territory, it isn’t subject to state law.
Many of the media outlets covering Darren and Jason’s story are making it sound as if the couple of nearly a decade set out to put one over on the Sooner State, reducing the legality of their union to a “loophole.” They didn’t. They just wanted to get married. Imagine that.
A spokesperson for Mary Fallin, the state’s Republican governor, was quick to clarify that Pickel and Black Bear will continue to be treated as any other homosexual couple married out of state. In an email to the LA Times, she wrote, “They are not recognized by the state of Oklahoma.”
In 2004, a whopping 76 percent of Oklahoma citizens voted to define marriage as between one man and one woman. The Cheyenne Arapaho Tribe’s definition of marriage, however, doesn’t specify gender requirements. The council doesn’t award marriage certificates to males and females, but to “Indians.”
So what does this mean for gay people in Oklahoma? Well, it doesn’t mean too much unless you happen to be engaged to a Native American whose tribe administers same-sex marriage licenses. The Black Bears’ situation (Jason plans on taking Darren’s last name) is the latest reminder to all of our DOMA-minded friends that the movement for marriage equality is not going anywhere. Right now, it might be relegated to certain states and Native American tribes, but it’s coming.
VICE: So you guys found the loophole in Oklahoma, huh?
Jason Pickel: No! I keep telling reporters to stop saying loophole. We didn’t find a loophole in Oklahoma. Technically, we’re not even getting married in the state of Oklahoma. I think, in general, a lot of Americans don’t understand the concept of a sovereign nation. It’s not a state; it’s a territory. [The reservation]’s just like DC: it’s not part of Virginia; it’s its own place.
Darren Black Bear: We were getting married so I could get Jason on my insurance. That’s what this began as. It morphed and grew, and turned into a wedding. It went from the Gayly to our tribal paper, then to KOCO-5, then to… the world. It’s crazy how it grew.
Has anything like this happened before?
Jason: Actually we’re the third Native American couple [from the tribe] to be issued a same-sex marriage license. They just didn’t really want to be public and that’s fine. I met them for the first time yesterday.