CONCHO — Although Oklahomans changed the constitution to ban same-sex marriages, gay couples are finding a way to tie the knot with the assistance of tribal officials.
Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear are getting married on Halloween in Watonga. They got their marriage license Friday from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Concho.
Clayton Prairie Chief Jr. and Robert Hiram Eastwood were married Dec. 12, two days after the tribes gave them a marriage license, tribal spokeswoman Lisa Lieb said.
Black Bear, 45, who is originally from Watonga, said that it's hard to believe he will be married in a little more than a week in his home state.
“In all honesty, I never really fathomed the idea that it would come to fruition,” he said. “Jason just went on a whim ... he called the tribe in Concho and found out we wouldn't even be the first to be married.”
Many prominent Oklahoma tribes, including the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, do not allow gay marriage and will not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It is not clear at this time whether other Oklahoma Indian tribes issue licenses to same-sex couples.
Pickel and Black Bear are hoping their marital status will help them take advantage of federal tax credits and workplace health care benefits.
“I've been trying to get Jason on my (workplace) insurance ... so that's part of the reason why we were looking to get married,” Black Bear said. “He hasn't had insurance for a long time.”
In recent years, Black Bear said he and his fiance had considered traveling to Iowa and California to get married. Now, they will be able to do so in Oklahoma, a place both men enjoy.