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Navajo Nation lawmakers reconsider ban on same-sex marriage

Published Thursday, Sep. 7th, 2023


Photo: daniel0 / Adobe Stock

Same-sex marriages have been banned within the Navajo Nation since the 2005 passage of the Diné Marriage Act, but new legislation seeks to change that. 

 

A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the Navajo Nation (No. 0139-23) was introduced by Council Delegate Seth Damon on June 23rd, during the reservation's annual Diné Pride celebration (via SourceNM.com).

 

Now, the legislation is headed to the 25th Navajo Nation Council’s Budget and Finance Committee for consideration, following advancement by the Law and Order Committee at the end of August (via IndianZ.com).

 

If passed, the legislation would repeal the Diné Marriage Act, which makes it illegal for same-sex couples to marry in the Navajo Nation and bars legal recognition of same-sex marriages solemnized elsewhere, including those formed in neighboring states. The method for a traditional Navajo wedding ceremony involving a man and woman, however, would remain the same (via NavajoNationCouncil.org).

 

 

Similar legislation to repeal the ban was introduced in 2022 by 24th Council Delegate Eugene Tso (Chinle), but failed to pass.

 

The Diné Marriage Act has been controversial for many years – since it was passed – and efforts to repeal it have been ongoing. In 2005, the Nation’s then-president Joe Shirley Jr. vetoed the ban soon after it passed, but was overridden by members of the Navajo Nation Council in a 62 - 14 vote in favor of the law (12 delegates abstained) (via NBCNews.com). 

 

LGBTQ2S+ community holds an important place in the Navajo Nation’s history, and its future. “Since our creation, the Diné people have acknowledged and revered LGBTQ and especially the trans community in our leadership," Alray Nelson, founder of Diné Equality and board member for Diné Pride, told reporters in June (via NPR.org).

 

Advocates hope that repealing the Diné Marriage Act will start a new chapter of acceptance within the Navajo Nation and a return to pre-colonial tribal views of gender and queer relationships (via the Legislation Summary Sheet).

 

Advocacy groups Diné Equality and Navajo Nation Pride created a petition to voice support for same-sex marriages in April, stating, “Your support will send a message to President Buu Nygren, Vice President Richelle Montoya, Speaker Crystalyne Curley, and the 25th Navajo Nation Council that we are an inclusive Sovereign Nation and we accept all our gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirit, and transgender family member.”

 

The petition is still active, and has already gathered more than 1800 signatures: Marriage Equality for the Navajo Nation at Change.org

 

 

For more information on the Council's upcoming decision, visit the Navajo Nation Council. 


 


 

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Screenshot of a young member of the Winnebago Tribe speaking into the camera about queer marriage rights

A queer two-spirit TikTok activist helped overturn a same-sex marriage ban passed by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Read the full story here. 

 


 


Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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