Gay marriage is banned in Oregon and the most states in the U.S. But if you are gay and Native American you are lucky: The Coquille Indian Tribe on the southern Oregon coast recently adopted a law that recognizes same-sex marriage.
According to anthropologist Brian Gilley, The Coquilles are probably the first tribe to legalize same-sex marriage. Gilley is author of the book, “Becoming Two-Spirit: Gay Identity and Social Acceptance in Indian Country”.
The interesting thing is that many Native American tribes historically accepted same-sex relationships. But in the colonial era, Europeans tended to change that.
Native Americans not only accepted lesbian and gay people, they also respected them as prophets, hunters or healers, anthropologist Rae Trewartha writes in The New Internationalist.
English and French-Canadian fur trappers were surprised to find that there were significant numbers of men dressed as women among the Native Indians, Scott Bidstrup writes:
What intrigued them the most, however, was the esteem with which these men were held by their fellow tribesmen. These men were considered to be spiritually gifted, a special gift to the tribe by God, men with a particular insight into spiritual matters.
The new law rises interesting legal questions, anthropologist Brian Gilley explains, Because the Coquilles have federal status, a marriage within the tribe would be federally recognized. But that would violate the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that says the federal government “may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose.”
“The federal government could challenge the Coquille law as a way of testing the limits of tribal independence", he says.
>> Gay marriage in Oregon? Tribe says yes (The Oregonian, 20.8.08)
>> Native American tribe to allow same-sex marriages (USA Today, 22.8.08)