These Native-American Tribes Are Pioneering Marriage Equality

The Puyallup Tribe is the latest to join a growing list of Native-American tribes legalizing same-sex marriage, many in states that have banned it.

BY Connie Wu

July 28 2014 9:00 AM ET

Leech Lake Tribe, Minnesota (2013)
Arnold Dahl and Matthew Wooley became the first gay couple to be married on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in November 2013. Dahl, a member of the tribe, met Wooley 15 years prior in Oregon, and the couple have been living on reservation land where they run the Lake Winnibigoshish General Store for over a decade. When they first moved in, some community members and business owners told the couple that they did not support their relationship. Nevertheless, after the couple's two-year campaign to establish marriage equality, many of those same naysayers happily congratulated the newlyweds. Dahl and Wooley plan to keep living on the reservation and hope to set a positive example for young gay Native Americans.


Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Washington (2014)
The latest tribe to legalize same-sex marriage is the Puyallup Tribe of Washington which passed an amendment to the tribe's domestic relations code by unanimous vote on July 9. The amendment comes after the state of Washington adopted marriage equality, but it is an important change nonetheless. "It's really about equal treatment of all your members — all your members should have the same rights and under the circumstances prior to the enactment of the resolution, they didn't all have the same rights," said council member Maggie Edwards. While writing the amendment, Edwards looked to the Colville Tribe's earlier adoption of same-sex marriage, in particular their historic perspective of Two-Spirit People. The new marriage law keeps in the Puyallup Tribe's tradition of embracing all people, says Edwards. "In the outer culture, people can be mean if you're different. We embrace each other regardless of our lumps, bumps and whoever we love — that's just how it is here."

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