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Native American tribe issues license and gay couple to marry despite ban in Oklahoma

BY KRISTI EATON, ASSOCIATED PRESS

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Darren Black Bear hasn't thought too much about his upcoming nuptials. Maybe khaki pants, and he doesn't mind if guests show up in Halloween costumes even though the wedding will be a rare sight: He and his partner are getting legally married in Oklahoma even though the state bans same-sex marriage.

How? His bloodline.

Black Bear and his partner of nine years, Jason Pickel, plan to walk each other down the aisle Thursday, surrounded by family and friends, before signing a marriage license granted by the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribes. Black Bear, 45, is a member of the Oklahoma-based tribe, which is among the few Native American tribes in the U.S. that allow same-sex marriage.

Like all federally recognized tribes, the Cheyenne Arapaho can approve laws for its land and members. Its code regarding marriage doesn't address gender, referring to the parties simply as "Indians," and requires that one person be a member of the tribe and reside within its jurisdiction.

It was on a whim, sparked in part by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision earlier this year to grant federal benefits to same-sex couples, that Pickel, 36, called the tribe to see if they could marry under tribal law instead of getting married in Iowa or another state where gay marriage was legal.

"Surprisingly enough, they told him that yes, they had already married one couple, and that it's $20 to get married," Black Bear said.

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