When marriage equality became a reality in the United States this past June, most people assumed it became legal everywhere. However, there are still sections of the country in which marriage equality is still illegal. And one woman is suing to to change that.
Cleo Pablo of Arizona's Ak-Chin Indian Community filed a lawsuit against her tribe to force them to recognize her marriage to her partner, Tara Roy-Pablo. Although every state is legally required to recognize same sex marriage, Native American tribes may still define a marriage as between a man and a woman in recognition of their sovereignty laws.
Like previous marriage inequality mandates, Cleo is currently unable to provide employee benefits from her position as a probation officer protecting her wife and her two children. Cleo, Tara and their children were also forced to move off their reservation because their relationship violates tribal housing policy.
"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," Cleo said in an interview with the Arizona Republic. "I had to choose between love and my home. I had to move."
Although the tribal council's Law & Order Code committee recommended recognizing same-sex marriage, members of the tribal council ignored the recommendations based on personal beliefs. Cleo's lawsuit stands as a significant challenge to the sovereignty of Native American community in the U.S. and its success could influence major changes not only in the Ak-Chin community, but in many other Native American communities.