A couple years ago we reported in a PowWows.com blog about the Gay Marriage movement in Indian Country, that even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Gay Marriage in all 50 states on June 26, 2015., only a handful of tribes decided to recognize the new Gay Marriage Law on tribal lands. Earlier that year splinternews.com reported that a few tribes exempted themselves from the 2015 ruling, citing tribal jurisdiction.
In a game-changer on how all tribes could potentially deal with Gay Marriage in the very near future, last month tribal member Cleo Pablo of the Ak-Chin O'Odham of Arizona, won a court victory allowing her same-sex marriage to be recognized under her tribe's law.
In an azcentral.com article, Pablo's counsel argued that,
“Ak-Chin tribal court was bound by U.S. Supreme Court rulings on marriage of same-sex couples because the tribal constitution appears to incorporate federal constitutional rights into tribal law” ,
Which basically means that because Gay Marriage is now a federal mandate and tribal law incorporates federal constitutional rights, gay marriage should be recognized under tribal law.
Interesting enough, the court opinion of Robert Clinton ruled,
“while the tribe is not, ‘bound' , by the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on marriage, the rulings do set, ‘persuasive precedents' , for establishing individual rights” , and, “the individual right to marry (perhaps together with certain political rights of participation) constitute the most fundamental right on which any people, indigenous or Western, is founded” ,
meaning Clinton's decision sided with Pablo's inherent individual rights which is why her tribes law was superseded.
This decisive victory now sets up a new legal reference for same sex tribal couples who want their Gay Marriage recognized within their tribes law, all they have to do is petition and get the ball rolling!
Powwows.com got a chance to interview Cleo Pablo, lets get to know her!
Please Introduce Yourself:
Hello, I’m the daughter of Ban Larry & Joann Pablo, my name is Cleo Pablo and I am a member of the AK-Chin Indian Community, Indian woman, mother, wife, sister and US Veteran. I am married to Tara Roy-Pablo for the past 2 years but we have been together for the past 14 years.
SPC Pablo-Louis, Cleo B, US ARMY 1994
What prompted you to challenge your tribes law concerning Gay Marriage?
To be honest, I never expected Gay Marriage be allowed in the US as soon as it did. I’d been with my wife for the past 10 years when it became law of the land for Arizona in 2014. First, thing I thought was I want to marry her. Tara has 2 children and I thought I can put us under my benefits policy at work. When I inquired on steps to do so I was told, “no” , because our tribal law indicates that marriage is legal only between a man & woman.
How does it feel knowing that your court ruling could potentially bring Gay Marriage across the board to all Federal Recognized tribes?
I see the ruling as a positive step-toward fighting for equal rights for the same-sex community. My son, my nieces and nephews understand and recognize that I fought to preserve my right to be treated equal. That tribal government must see that every tribal member must be treated the same. They are representative of every person not just the majority. Sovereignty belongs to the people and not a weapon tribal government can use when convenient for their own agendas.
How does your tribe view unions or marriages of same sex couples?
The older generation can’t see any other way but man & woman, therefore that anti-gay ideology is passed down. I was raised to be traditional O’Odham woman by my mom and relatives in my community. I never questioned anything because that’s how I was raised to just, “do what you’re told” , marry an O’odham man and make sure they are not related to you.
Even though Gay Marriage is now recognized in all 50 states, why was it important for you to have your marriage recognized under Tribal Law?
My community is my home, where I was raised and taught the importance of my O’Odham traditions. I work and lived here and it was important that I be treated the same. I felt it was unfair that I was legally married yet not able to obtain employee benefits as any other legally married couple. I wasn’t asking for special treatment, I was asking for equal treatment.
On behalf of Indian Country, we want to thank Cleo & Tara to standing up for whats right! #aho #walkinpeace