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Southeast Alaska tribal organization to allow same-sex marriages

Southeast Alaska tribal organization to allow same-sex marriages

SITKA, Alaska — Southeast Alaska’s largest tribal organization has given the go-ahead to its courts to perform weddings for same-sex couples.

Tlingit-Haida Central Council President Richard Peterson
Tlingit-Haida Central Council President Richard Peterson

The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska announced its new policy Monday following a decision by its seven-member governing board. The panel voted unanimously last week to define legal marriage without a gender requirement, reported CoastAlaska News.

Same-sex marriage has been legal throughout Alaska since a federal court decision last year. The state is appealing, but same-sex weddings continue to move forward.

Council president Richard Peterson said his organization’s decision was about exercising its governing authority.

“It’s something we can do to extend our sovereignty for all of our tribal citizens,” Peterson said. “It’s not just about the same-sex marriage and helping just one segment of our tribal citizens, but all of our tribal citizens.”

The new directive also covers tribal divorces.

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To qualify for marriage under the council’s tribal courts, at least one person in the couple must be Tlingit or Haida. The tribes list nearly 30,000 members in Alaska and elsewhere.

When it comes to same-sex marriage, tribal authorities are moving in the same direction as the rest of the nation, according to Evan Wolfson, president of the national advocacy group Freedom to Marry.

Tribal governments that have approved same-sex marriages in recent years are listed by the advocacy group and include the Puyallup Tribe of Indians in Washington state, the Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon and the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes in Oklahoma.

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