Native American tribal laws are divided in defining marriage, some recognizing same-sex unions, others prohibiting them, and many more not addressing the subject.
Below is a list of federally recognized Native American tribes that have laws either defining marriage as between a man and a woman or explicitly prohibiting same-sex marriages, along with excerpts of those laws. At least 10 other tribes recognize same-sex marriages, while many more are silent on the matter.
The sovereign tribes’ laws would not be directly affected by a U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage expected this spring or summer because the tribes weren’t parties to the U.S. Constitution, said Lindsay Robertson, director of Oklahoma University’s Center for the Study of American Indian Law and Policy.
Robertson said many provisions covered by the Bill of Rights are extended to tribal jurisdictions through a separate law, the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968. Claims made under that law must be heard in tribal courts, which would ultimately decide a challenge to a tribe’s marriage law.
The Navajo Nation: “Marriage between persons of the same sex is void and prohibited.”
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The Cherokee Nation, based in Oklahoma: “No marriage shall be contracted … between parties of the same gender.”
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, based in North Carolina: “The licensing and solemnization of same sex marriages are not allowed within this jurisdiction.”
The Chickasaw Nation, based in Oklahoma: “No Marriage will be recognized between persons of the same sex.”
The Kalispel Tribe of Indians, based in Northeast Washington state: “No marriage license shall be issued or marriage performed unless the persons to be married are of the opposite sex and at least sixteen (16) years of age.”
Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma: “The court is not authorized to conduct a marriage ceremony or issue a marriage certificate to a couple if they are of the same sex.”
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation, based in Oklahoma: “Same gender marriage prohibited. A marriage between persons of the same gender performed in another Indian Nation or state shall not be recognized as valid and binding in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.”
Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin: “A marriage may be contracted under this law between two (2) adults who … are of the opposite sex.”
The Osage Nation, based in Oklahoma: “A marriage between persons of the same gender performed in another jurisdiction shall not be recognized as valid and binding in the Osage Nation …”
Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa: “Same gender marriages prohibited. Only persons of the opposite gender may marry.”
The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma: “Person of the same gender will not be allowed to marry or divorce.”