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Congratulations Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 10/23/13
Last updated on: 10/23/13
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Jason Pickel (left) and Darren Black Bear.

Congratulations to Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear, who have received a marriage license from the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe in Concho, Oklahoma. The couple was planning to travel to Iowa to marry because Oklahoma's 2004 constitutional amendment limits marriage to opposite-sex couples. However, when they discovered that the tribe, of which Black Bear is a member, would be happy to issue them a license, they decided to marry in Oklahoma within the tribe's jurisdiction. Black Bear's father, a preacher, will officiate at the ceremony scheduled for Halloween night.

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

Moreover, Pickel and Black Bear are not the first same-sex couple whose marriage the tribe has licensed. Lisa Liebl, spokeswoman for the tribe, told Tulsa World that the first couple was two men who married on December 12, 2012. She added that a third couple received a marriage license on October 7. Pickel and Black Bear were just the first who were willing to go public with their marriage plans, she said.

Pickel and Black Bear have been a couple for nine years. They live in Oklahoma City.

Black Bear told Jennifer Luong of Oklahoma City television station KOKH that his father has always fought for civil rights and equality and that is why they wanted him to marry them. He added that his father had only one request: for Blackbear and Pickel to write their own wedding vows.

As Pickel and Blackbear finalize last minute wedding details, leaders in Oklahoma's glbtq community say that their marriage makes a big statement.

"It certainly creates an environment for people that come behind them to follow suit," said Scott J. Hamilton, Director of the Cimarron Alliance.

Hamilton says Pickel and Blackbear's marriage also draws attention to the fight for marriage equality in Oklahoma, where a federal lawsuit challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage has gained momentum following the United States Supreme Court ruling in Windsor v. U.S.A., which declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

The Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe is not alone among Indian tribes in licensing same-sex marriage. In March, I blogged about the wedding of Tim LaCroix and Gene Barfield, who were the first same-sex couple to marry in Michigan, when their wedding was performed under the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians marriage statute.

The Coquille Tribe of Oregon and the Suquamish Tribe of Washington also include same-sex marriage in their sovereign governmental laws.

The marriage of Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear will not be recognized by the state of Oklahoma, but it will be by the federal government.

The video below, from KOKH television, profiles the happy couple.

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