A gay couple got a marriage license last week in Oklahoma, but their license was issued through a tribe and not the state.

Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear, both members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, received a marriage license Friday, tribal officials confirmed to the Tulsa World.

The tribe is based in Concho, just north of El Reno.

Pickel said he's been with his partner for 8 1/2 years and was considering leaving the state to marry when a tribal official said the tribe would allow it.

"We were a little overwhelmed," Pickel said. "My partner's dad is a preacher, and he is going to sign it."

Pickel said he's happy to get married within the tribe's jurisdiction even if Oklahoma won't recognize it.

"I get that marriage is not recognized in Oklahoma and no state entity can recognize it, but I don't want anything from the state" regarding marriage, Pickel said.

Rosemary Stephens, editor in chief of the Tribal Tribune, a newspaper owned by the tribe, said the tribe's law does not address gender in its marriage ordinance.

"One of them has to be a member of this tribe but not both," Stephens said. "It's our tribal law and order code. It doesn't address gender at all."

And it's not even the first gay marriage that the tribe has licensed, she said.

Lisa Liebl, spokeswoman for the tribe, said the first couple was two men who married on Dec. 12, 2012.

Liebl said there is a third couple who received a marriage license on Oct. 7.

Pickel and Black Bear were just the first who were willing to go public with their marriage plans, she said.

"We're just super happy," Pickel said. "For the most part, everyone has been very supportive, especially from a conservative state."

In terms of issuing marriage licenses, the tribe is only subject to federal law and not state law, Stephens said.

In 2004 Oklahoma voters passed an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

A federal lawsuit filed in Tulsa's Northern District in 2004 challenges Oklahoma's same-sex marriage ban, according to court records.

Two lesbian couples — Sue Barton and Gay Phillips, and Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin — filed the Tulsa lawsuit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act's Section 2, which provides that no state shall be required to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state, as well as the federal law's Section 3, which defined marriage for federal purposes as meaning only a legal union between one man and one woman.

Barton and Phillips are legally married in Canada and California, but neither marriage is recognized in Oklahoma. Bishop and Baldwin, who are Tulsa World editors, have been together 16 years and had a commitment ceremony 13 years ago.

Liebl said she was unsure about any other tribes in Oklahoma that allow same-sex marriage.

The World contacted the Cherokee Nation, the Osage Nation and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, who all reported that their laws have specific language banning same-sex marriage.

Changes in those laws would have to come through their individual legislative arms.

Raymond Red Corn, speaker of the Osage Nation Congress, said a change "is always possible."

Red Corn said there is currently a bill that addresses marriage, but he has heard of no intent to amend the bill to allow for same-sex marriage.

In 2004, a Tulsa-area couple, Dawn McKinley and Kathy Reynolds, received a marriage application from the Cherokee Nation, according to Tulsa World reports.

A judge quickly issued a moratorium on the tribe's marriage licenses, blocking the couple from filing their signed license after they married.

The Cherokee Nation later added language to its laws that banned same-sex marriage.

The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes have supported same-sex relationships in the tribe for many years without any problems, Stephens said.

"We have a lot of support for gay couples within the tribe," Stephens said. "They're just not called out. ... There's a huge amount of support."


Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Recommended for you