Robert Kentta, council member for Siletz Tribe of Oregon. Still image from Willamette University / Vimeo
The Siletz Tribe of Oregon has become the latest to join the marriage equality movement in Indian Country.
The tribal council approved marriage and dissolution of marriage ordinances during its meeting on May 15. The law treats all couples the same, regardless of gender.
“The Siletz Tribe is committed as a government to serve its people well and treat all members with the respect, dignity and equal protections under tribal law that they deserve,” council member Robert Kentta said in a press release.
The tribe's general council -- consisting of all adult members -- held a non-binding advisory to determine interest in the matter. Nearly 67 percent responded in favor of marriage equality.
“When approached with the request for the Siletz Tribal Council to establish a Siletz Tribal Marriage Ordinance – and for it to be specifically inclusive of same-sex couples and treat all adult tribal members equally in this regard – it was a fairly simple process to get that ball rolling," Kentta said.
At least 22 other tribes recognize same-sex marriage, according to Wikipedia.
Tribes in the Pacific Northwest -- Oregon and Washington -- were among the first to equality laws.
“The Siletz Tribe thanks our sister tribes that have previously taken such legislative action to protect their members and communities, and express their living cultures. We thank them for their leadership and courage to stand up for what is right,” said Kentta.
The tribe's move comes as the nation awaits for the
U.S. Supreme Court to issue decisions in a series
of same-sex marriage cases.
The outcome won't necessarily apply to the actions of tribal governments but observers believe it could pressure them to address the issue.
The Navajo Nation and the Cherokee Nation, the two biggest
tribes in terms of membership, outlaw same-sex marriages. So do several other
large tribes, including the Seminole
Nation, the Chickasaw
Nation, the Muscogee
Nation and the Osage
Nation, all in Oklahoma.
The Osage Nation, however, might be changing its stance. A tribal
lawmaker introduced a bill in April to recognize all marriages.
In June 2013, the Supreme Court struck
down a section in the Defense
of Marriage Act that did not allow the federal government to recognize
same-sex marriage. The justices did not rule on a different section that allows
tribes and states to ignore marriages that may not be legal in their
The rulings in the new cases are expected by the end of this month.
Oneida Nation leaders
unanimously back marriage equality law (06/01)
Gregory Smithers: Same-sex marriage within
Cherokee culture (6/1)
Supreme Court ruling on
same-sex marriage could impact tribes (04/29)
Steve Russell: Same-sex
marriage back before Supreme Court (04/27)
Large tribes remain holdouts
in same-sex marriage movement (04/07)
Tlingit and Haida Tribes
ensure equal treatment in marriage law (02/23)
Man from Omaha Tribe hopes
for marriage equality in Nebraska (02/23)
Group on Navajo Nation still working towards
marriage equality (2/23)
Eastern Cherokee leaders
reaffirm ban on same-sex marriage (01/14)
Wind River tribal judge
presides over first same-sex marriage (11/17)
At least 10 tribes adopt laws
to recognize same-sex mariage (07/28)
Siletz Tribes plan to hold
advisory vote on same-sex marriages (05/20)
Alray Nelson: Bring marriage
equality to the Navajo Nation (04/22)
Rep. Markwayne Mullin,
Cherokee, slams marriage ruling (01/15)
Little Traverse Bay Bands
council rejects marriage law vote (01/08)
Navajo Nation group seeks
marriage equality on reservation (01/03)
Interview with couple about
Cheyenne-Arapaho marriage law (10/29)
Amber Bighorse: Cheyenne and
Arapaho Tribes make history (10/28)
Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes
draw attention to marriage law (10/25)
Editorial: Tribe leading way
to marriage equality in Oklahoma (10/24)
Same-sex couple plans wedding under
Cheyenne-Arapaho law (10/23)
Arapaho Tribes recognize same-sex marriages (10/22)