The Oglala Sioux Tribe has become the first tribe in South Dakota to legalize same-sex marriage.
The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council passed a same-sex marriage ordinance July 8 in a 12-3 vote with one abstention — which amends the marital and domestic law that hasn’t changed since 1935 on Pine Ridge Reservation. Two days later, the Oglala Sioux Tribe Law and Order Committee passed a resolution recommending that the tribe adopt a hate crime ordinance modeled on the Matthew Shepard Act, which provides federal protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.
The hate crime resolution is currently up for debate by district councils and the Tribal Council is expected to vote on it during its Aug. 27 meeting. South Dakota’s state hate crime law doesn’t include protections for gender identity and sexual orientation, despite attempts at the Legislature to add them.
“These are historic days for our tribe and for the rights of all people who seek equality, justice and recognition under the law,” said Chase Iron Eyes, public relations director for Oglala President Julian Bear Runner.
Monique “Muffie” Mousseau and Felipa DeLeon, who grew up on Pine Ridge, brought the issue to the current council’s attention when they found they couldn’t be married on Pine Ridge as they wished in 2015.
“My wife called the tribal courthouse because it was legal across the United States. So she called the courthouse to see if we were able to get a marriage license from here, from our tribe. But they wouldn’t give us one,” DeLeon said.
Mousseau said the denial was part of a larger pattern of discrimination and violence.
“We have seen and felt and heard the pain, the cries of suicide, sexual assaults, rapes, murders. We have had to come back to different funerals, different events concerning LGTBQ. And nothing has changed as far as the gay bashing,” Mousseau said.
The couple began petitioning for the changes to tribal laws in May, culminating in the passage of the new ordinance and resolution last week.