The Osage Nation has voted to change the definition of marriage in an election that drew an overwhelming number of absentee ballots.
The tribe will now define marriage as a union between “two persons” rather than one between a man and a woman.
More than 1,100 people submitted absentee votes, but only 347 people showed up onsite to cast their ballot during the two-day early voting period and on Monday, the actual election day.
After it was all said and done, the proposal passed with 53 percent of the vote.
Election Board member Shannon Lockett told Tulsa television station KTUL that she was surprised by how few people turned up in person given the significance of the measure.
“This is historic,” she explained. “We’re voting on a question that we’ve never had an initiative like this come up before the voters.”
The proposal was sponsored by Osage Nation Congresswoman Alice Buffalohead, saying, “We have enough discrimination with the outside world, and I feel that all Osages deserve to be treated equally.”
“I know that for a lot of people it was a controversial issue, but for me it was not,” she told Tulsa World after the results were announced. “It was just about equality and guaranteeing that we all have equal rights under the law.”
Though the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage in the states and most territories, it did not establish marriage equality on Native American lands.
That being said, at least 35 tribes have legally recognized same-sex marriages, including the Cherokee, Blackfeet and, now, Osage Nations as well as the Cheyenne, Coquille and Arapaho Tribes.