On Monday, the Suquamish Tribal Council ratified the people’s wishes and recognized gay marriage, making it only the second tribe in the country known to do so.
The new law allows the tribal court to issue a marriage license to two unmarried people, regardless of their sex, if they’re at least 18 years old and at least one of them is enrolled in the tribe.
It will be up to other courts to decide if unions granted under the Suquamish ordinance will be recognized elsewhere in Washington, said the tribe’s attorney, Michelle Hansen.
This is good news, but its implications stretch beyond marriage equality—a storm is brewing in Indian Country about the limits and power of tribal sovereignty in general and how much civil-regulatory authority the U.S. states have (or don't have) on tribal land. Some are arguing for a tribal marijuana trade. Others are gearing up for a big fight with Big Tobacco and the states over taxation of tobacco on tribal lands. And now two tribes—the Suquamish and the Coquille in Oregon—have legalized gay marriage.
With all of this—plus the new Honor the Treaties campaign—expect to see renewed legal tension and debate in the near future over what, exactly, "tribal sovereignty" means.