Suquamish Tribe approves same-sex marriage

3 Aug 2011

The Suquamish Tribal Council in Washington has formally changed its ordinances to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The change grants gay and lesbian couples all the rights afforded to heterosexual couples on the reservation, according to this report in the Kitsap Sun.

Is this the first Native American tribe to grant same-sex marriage rights?

No, that would be the Coquille Indian Tribe in Coos Bay, Ore in 2009, the Sun reports.

Now for a tougher question: What rights do same-sex couples married on Squamish land have once they leave the reservation?

Limited rights, it appears. The state of Washington does not grant wedding licenses to same-sex couples.

Michelle Hansen, a Suquamish Tribal attorney, told the Sun that the Suquamish ordinance does not have an effect anywhere that does not legally recognize same-sex marriages conducted elsewhere.

And the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which has been repeatedly challenged but is still the law, also poses a legal obstacle, the Seattle Times reports.

"When the United States passes a statute of general applicability, it will apply to [an Indian Tribe] unless the statute says it doesn't," Ron Whitener, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law, told the Seattle Times. DOMA, Whitener said, explicitly includes tribes in its prohibition on granting federal benefits to same-sex couples.


(Via the Wall Street Journal)