Large tribes remain holdouts in same-sex marriage movement

A booth promoting the repeal of the Dine Marriage Act of 2005. Photo from Marriage Equality for the Navajo Nation / Facebook

Marriage equality has quickly become the norm in the United States but Indian Country remains in a distinct legal and political sphere.

The Navajo Nation and the Cherokee Nation, the two largest 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.

Because tribes are separate sovereigns, their marriage laws are not affected by state laws to the contrary. Nor are they affected by existing federal laws and policies regarding same-sex marriage.

In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a section in the Defense of Marriage Act that did not allow the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage. But the justices did not rule on a different section that allows tribes and states to ignore marriages that may not be legal in their jurisdictions.

On April 28, the Supreme Court will be hearing a series of cases that could determine whether states can be forced to recognize all marriages. But since the dispute is linked to the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which does not apply to the actions of tribal governments, it may not affect the holdouts in Indian Country.

In contrast to the holdouts, at least 22 tribes recognize same-sex marriage, according to Wikipedia. Additionally, 36 states plus the District of Columbia and the federal government recognize same-sex marriage.

Get the Story:
Handful of holdout tribes dig in against gay marriage (AP 4/6)
A list of tribal laws prohibiting gay marriage (AP 4/6)
Supreme Court Asked to Look Abroad for Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage (The New York Times 4/7)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
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)
Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes recognize same-sex marriages (10/22)