Puyallup Tribal Council passes freedom to marry amendment

This month, on July 9, the Puyallup Tribal Council, based in Washington State, approved an amendment to its tribal domestic relations code to add a new section that affirms the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

The Tacoma Weekly reports:

“People who are gay or lesbian could not marry the person they love on this reservation and now they can,” said Council Member Maggie Edwards who authored the amendment with tribal attorney Toni Whitegrass.

Maggie Edwards said the impetus to write the amendment came to her after tribal members had asked her why the Tribe doesn’t allow for couples of the same sex to marry. “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,” she said.

In Washington State, same-sex couples have had the freedom to marry since December 2012. Tribal nations based geographically in the United States operate with their own constitutions, court systems, and governments.

The Puyallup the Little Traverse Bay Bands is at least the ninth tribal nation to respect and perform marriages for same-sex couples. In 2009, the Coquille Tribe in North Bend, OR began respecting and performing marriages between same-sex couples, and in 2011, the Suquamish Tribe in WA extended the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, too. Others include the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians in Michigan, the Santa Ysabel Tribe in California, the Colville Tribal Council of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation in Washington, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma, and the Leech Lake Tribal Court in Minnesota, which all approved amendments or resolutions in 2013. 

Read more about why marriage matters to Native Americans here