Gay marriage is illegal in Oklahoma. Gay marriages performed in other states aren't recognized in Oklahoma, either. In September, Governor Mary Fallin even asked the National Guard to stop processing benefits for same-sex couples, in spite of a federal directive to do so. Still, one gay couple found a clever loophole, by which they were able to marry in The Sooner State.
The couple, Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear, had the idea to get married through the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribal Court, an autonomous Native American judiciary in Concho, Okla., that isn't subject to state laws.
But when Pickel and Black Bear first asked the sovereign nation to perform the ceremony, they were denied. It was 2009, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) made their union impossible.
But on Oct. 10, 2013, less than four months after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, Pickel and Black Bear received an official marriage license from the tribal court, whose law code surrounding marriage "does not specify gender," Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes spokesperson Lisa Liebl told The Huffington Post on Tuesday.
The tribal constitution does, however, mandate that both people seeking marriage must have Native American heritage and live within the tribe's jurisdiction -- both requirements Pickel and Black Bear met.
"I was really expecting [to be told] no," Pickel told local news station KOCO-TV. "But they said, 'Yeah, come on down. It's 20 bucks.'"
While the couple will still be denied tax breaks on their state returns, notes the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribal Tribune, they will now be able to receive federal tax benefits like any other married couple.
Black Bear and Pickel are the first gay couple to be publicly married in the state of Oklahoma, Black Bear told HuffPost.
"I'm just so glad at the positive reaction people have had to this," he said, noting that the majority of comments on social news site Reddit were supportive. "Back in 2007, when Jason and I got denied service at a hotel in South Carolina because of our sexual orientation, the news picked up the story, and there was a lot of hate and negativity in the comments. But it really looks like things are changing now."