In a unanimous vote Friday, the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s Executive Council adopted a new statute that allows same-sex couples to marry under tribal law.
“We are pleased to expand our Tribal Court to meet the needs of our tribal citizens,” said Tribal Court Chief Justice Debra O’Gara in a prepared statement. “Our court can now be utilized by tribal citizens for the happy occasion of marriage without discrimination and regardless of gender.”
The Tribal Court has the power to conduct marriage ceremonies, divorce proceedings and set up custody arrangements. The executive council — a seven-member governing board — requires that at least one of the people getting married be enrolled in the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, according to the final draft of the statute. Headquartered in Juneau, the council represents roughly 29,000 Tlingit and Haida people in Alaska and elsewhere, according to its website.
Tribal President Richard Peterson said there wasn’t a single event or person that spurred the new statute, but that the timing was right.
“This isn’t about an agenda,” said Peterson, adding that the goal was to simply provide equal treatment to tribal citizens.