BY Trudy Ring
July 29 2010 3:05 PM ET
In June the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which operates Connecticut’s Foxwoods Resort Casino, announced new tribal laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It also expanded the Foxwoods equal employment policy to ban such discrimination. The Mohegan tribe, which operates another major Connecticut casino, enacted an LGBT-friendly employment policy several years ago and this year launched a monthly gay dance party.
With society as a whole moving toward greater acceptance of gay people, so are native tribes returning to their roots of tolerance—before European settlement of the Americas, many Native American tribes revered gender-variant members, often imbuing them with special powers and accepting their same-sex relationships.
The Mashantucket Pequot tribe (a member of which is pictured) also recently decided to license same-sex marriages. In this it follows the Coquille tribe of the Pacific Northwest, which approved same-sex marriage in 2008, likely the first tribe to do so. The federal government isn’t bound to recognize such marriages, although states with marriage equality recognize same-sex tribal unions, says Melanie Rowen, a staff attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
An LGBT chamber of commerce helped the Mashantucket Pequots develop its new policies, which tribe spokeswoman Lori Potter says fit the Pequots “basic vision and mission.” After all, adds Robert Victoria, chief marketing officer for Foxwoods’ gaming enterprises, the tribe “is no stranger to discrimination and the struggle for dignity and equality.”