January 2016 Church & State - January 2015

Ariz. Woman Sues Tribe Over Same-Sex Marriage Ban

  AU admin

The battle for marriage equality isn’t over quite yet. In Arizona, a Native American woman is suing the Ak-Chin Indian Community for its refusal to drop a tribal ban on same-sex marriage.

Due to tribal sovereignty laws, the Ak-Chin are entitled to a measure of legal autonomy on reservation lands; the tribe’s legal code prohibits same-sex marriage.

Cleo Pablo, who belongs to the tribe and serves as a probation officer for the tribal courts, asked Ak-Chin leaders to recognize her marriage in a June letter. But they refused and rejected Pablo’s request to add her wife and children to her health insurance. Pablo told the Arizona Republic that her family had to move from the reservation out of fear they could be charged with illegal cohabitation.

“I felt like I was given no choice. I couldn’t marry the person who makes me happy and live in the place that makes me happy,” Pablo said. “I had to choose between love and my home. I had to move.”

Because Pablo no longer lives on the reservation, she’s ineligible to run for a seat on the tribal council.

In a statement to the media, tribal leaders refused to comment on marriage equality but condemned the lawsuit, insisting that the matter is one of “a tribe’s right of sovereignty, its right of self-governance, and the inherent right of tribes to regulate domestic relations within their reserved lands.”

The case is Pablo v. Ak-Chin Community.

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