Southeast Alaska’s largest tribal organization has authorized its courts to perform same-sex marriages.
The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska announced its new policy Monday.
It defines legal marriage to be with another person, regardless of gender.
President Richard Peterson, in a press release, said the council is, quote, “exercising our self-determination and sovereign authority and making sure that we provide for equal treatment of our tribal citizens.”
Old rules allowed tribal courts to conduct marriages, though it wasn’t a regular practice. The council’s new policy is expected to encourage its courts to perform same-and opposite-sex marriages.
Its directive also includes divorces.
The council said its action adds to a growing list of tribes amending or adopting rules to recognize gender equality.
Freedom to Marry, based in New York City, lists nine tribal governments in the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Oklahoma that OK’d same-sex marriages during the past half-dozen years.
President Evan Wolfson said he’s sure there are more.
“Members of the tribes know what it’s like to experience discrimination,” Wolfson said. “They know what it’s like to be shoved outside, to be looked down on.”
“And I think what tribal authorities are saying is that, out of that history, we know it’s important that we not commit the same kinds of discrimination, that we not isolate people, is that we not harm them.”
The central council claims a membership of nearly 30,000 Tlingit and Haida Indians in and outside Alaska.