Gay Marriage Now Legal in Washington State—Sort Of

Suquamish become second US tribe to allow same-sex unions

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 3, 2011 7:39 AM CDT

(Newser) – Gay marriage is now legal in Washington state—as long as the wedding takes place on the Suquamish Tribe's reservation and at least one of the parties is a member of the tribe. The tribal council has voted unanimously to recognize same-sex marriages, making it only the second tribe in the country known to do so. The tribe's attorney says it will be up to other courts to decide whether unions granted under its laws are recognized elsewhere in Washington, where gay marriage remains illegal.

But the AP notes that the state legislature this year OKed a measure that recognizes same-sex unions from other jurisdictions, including other nations. "We are open and tolerant, and we want to make sure our members are offered the opportunity to be happy and free in their lives," the tribe's chairman tells the Seattle Times. "This lined up with our values as a tribe. We don't discriminate." (Interesting side note: Seattle is named after the most famous member of the Suquamish Tribe, Chief Seattle, who led a tribal confederation in the first half of the 19th century.)

Heather Purser, a Suquamish tribal member who worked to change the tribes marriage ordinance to include same-sex couples, stands near a memorial for Chief Seattle on the tribe's reservation.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Heather Purser, a 29-year-old seafood diver for the tribe, lobbied to have the tribe recognize same-sex marriages.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
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