The Colville Tribal Council voted last week to recognize same-sex marriage, a provision that affects over 9,360 members who are descendants of 12 different tribes, about half of which who live on the 1.4 million-acre Colville Indian Reservation in north central Washington state.
Council Chairman Michael Finley said tribes have always known that gay people — whom they call Two-Spirited Peoples — have a special place in their society, reported The Wenatchee World.
Finley said tribal culture has long recognized that some people are drawn to those of the same gender. “They’ve always been accepted,” he said. Now, tribal law will also treat them equally and with respect, he said.
Under the newly passed amendment, married same-sex partners will have the same rights as a married, heterosexual couples. One change already enacted allows anyone who works for the tribe to add a spouse of the same sex to their insurance and benefits.
The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation becomes the sixth Native American tribe to recognize same-sex marriage. The others are the Coquille Tribe (Oregon), the Suquamish tribe (Washington), the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (Michigan), the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians (Michigan), and the Santa Ysabel Tribe (California).
Same-sex marriages performed on these Native American reservations are recognized by the federal government under the June U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.