Gay Marriage Comes to Indian Country

Gay Marriage Comes to Indian Country

A couple years ago we reported in a 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 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 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meaning Clinton's decision sided with Pablo's inherent individual rights which is why her tribes law was superseded.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! 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

4 Comments on “Gay Marriage Comes to Indian Country”

  • Avatar for Craig Apelbaum

    Marriage is between one man and one woman only. And that’s it. Nothing else.

    • Avatar for kiwani



      I don’t know if you are Native American or not, but it has been my understanding for a while now that many tribes (historically having some of the highest individual-freedom-values ever known in any society or culture), have traditionally had customs allowing (sometimes even honoring) what some have called two-soul persons… to me this is beautiful.. fully inclusive of who each and every person is.. and it’s about time -at least in this one aspect- that the American culture is finally starting to live up to the more humane, and higher ideals embodied within our Declaration of Independence…

  • Avatar for Elo Janis

    Elo Janis


    The above comment was taken from an automotive collectors magazine and was sent to me by a fellow automobile enthusiast. We got a good laugh out of it and I forwarded it to others in our car club.
    It somehow ended up being printed here by mistake so please disregard it. Thank you.

  • Avatar for Elo Janis

    Elo Janis


    On the day I went in to inspect the car the day it arrived (even though it needed an additional day and a half to do their dealer prep) I took along a newly recorded DVD of my 15 stall, (13 stalls are now occupied leaving me just two more stalls for two new cars to complete my collection) custom built garage and lounge. My garage space, which is specially designed and constructed to lie underground with the roof top partially covered with live foliage in an attempt to disguise the true nature of this secret fortress of tens of thousands of Horsepower holding space. The walls are 15 ft high, with windows that begin at 8 feet off the ground to avoid having would be thiefs or just plain nosy neighbors peer into my storage unit.
    There are two entrances to my garage with one being hidden ala the original bat cave and the other hidden behind two mechanical gates that are impossible to gain entry into without both special titanium keys and two well hidden, telescopic folding key pads for constantly changing entrance code numbers.
    Once the General Manager and the two Representatives I had been working with throughout this almost depressing debacle viewed my ten minute video of not only my car collection but of my storage vault as well, they finally seemed to warm up to the fact that I am a serious car collector and not just some trust fund idiot waiting to spend all of his inheritance on just one super car. I made them realize the old adage is true….NEVER judge a book by it’s cover and never assume one’s wealth merely by speaking with them long enough to complete a car buying transaction. While I usually am very open about my obsession with super and ultra exotic cars, after my first contact with them I never shared my passion and vast experience with superlative examples of automotive excellence.
    All I know is that I will never again purchase a Mercedes Benz! I own a 2015 S600 Brabus modified and on my last visit to the Mercedes Benz dealership. I drove this prime example of proof that I buy only the best in cars. I had to practically walk around and pick up the salesmen’s jaws off of the ground they were so shocked someone like me would have access not only to this new GT-R, but all of the other vehicles in my collection.

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