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New Mexico

Navajo Nation official: N.M. court ruling has no effect on tribe’s gay marriage ban

Friday, December 20, 2013

FARMINGTON, N.M. — A Navajo Nation official says the tribe’s own law prohibiting same-sex marriage isn’t affected by the New Mexico Supreme Court’s decision legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples in New Mexico.

Navajo-NationDeswood Tome, an adviser to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, told The Daily Times that the tribe’s own law prohibiting same-sex marriage still stands.

“We are upholding the law as currently enacted,” Tome said.

“The purposes of marriage on the Navajo Nation are to promote strong families and to preserve and strengthen family values,” the law states.

But Jared Touchin, spokesman for the Office of the Speaker, said the court decision has the potential to make people, including Navajo lawmakers, rethink the issue.

That law enacted in 2005 says same-sex marriage says same-sex marriage is “void and prohibited” but it also recognizes marriages created outside tribal lands.

There are currently eight Native American tribes which allow same-sex marriage, including the Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon, the Santa Ysabel Tribe in California, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington State, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma.

Associated Press contributed to this report.
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51 more reader comments:

  1. that’s too bad. Coming from a race of people who’ve had positive names for gay folk in the tribe for thousands of years, this is disappointing and surprising. Eurocentric ideologies have almost destroyed their culture, and now they cling to this prejudice that initially wasn’t even theirs. Sad.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:44pm
  2. It's the Roman-Catholic influence that screwed up their tribe ever since the Spanish Conquistadors introduced the "Padres" a couple of centuries ago... :-(

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:57pm
  3. state law trumps their law. Wait, do they really have a law? LOL

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:05pm
  4. Steven, state law does NOT trump their law. Their law, by treaty, is absolute on reservation land. Even FEDERAL law doesn't trump their laws on the reservation.

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:22pm
  5. Yes, because they have their human rights as Natives honoured, unlike the natives themselves, who don’t honour the human rights of others. Just like in Canada.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:46pm
  6. Of course not. Anything else I would say would be less than polite.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:46pm
  7. This has to anger Navajo two-spirit peoples all to hell.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:46pm
  8. I would absolutely agree. I am fond of the Native American tribes, the beauty of their history and their culture, but I'm disgusted by their ban on marriage equality. It just goes to show how pervasive hate can be when it isn't treated with the same intolerance with which it treats everything else.

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:41pm

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 9:15pm
  10. Maybe, just maybe, the religious right will demand to move the reservations!!! Yep, maybe we can hope the right-wing moves to the reservations.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:47pm
  11. Wow. Way to continue the repression, the only reason why any first nations tribe in North America have these beliefs is because we forced Christianity on them. So dissapointing.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:48pm
  12. Honestly we should have no desire to change how they live. Those people have suffered enough at the hands of our government

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:00pm
  13. Defend hate and bigotry, much. Now, tell me how wonderful the Klan is.

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:42pm
  14. LOL…apparently they are not familiar with their own history

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:11pm
  15. As an enrolled member of the Navajo Tribe and a proud Navajo Transwomen, I hope one day the Navajo Nation will acknowledge and honor Marriage Equality for LGBTQ tribal members. Looking forward to returning to the Navajo Nation and marrying my beloved non-Native partner of 14+ years in a Traditional Navajo Wedding. Ahe’hee (Thank you) and always, Walk in Beauty!!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:15pm
  16. This will set thought into change!!! Hopefully.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:16pm
  17. Congratulations Trudie.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:16pm
  18. Well, that’s true… They DO have the legal authority to ignore state bans on gay marriage, and therefore they have the legal authority to ignore state rules allowing it.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:20pm
  19. I am Navajo and my partner of 11 years is Navajo and one of my sons is Navajo and my step son is Sioux. Our family values are: love, respect all living things, to be humble, goal oriented, and to help others. I think our family is just as good as a any other family.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:32pm
  20. what a shame..and obviously the current so-called tribal leaders of the Navajo People dont know anything or have forgotten about they’re own TWO-SPIRITED it.. Navajo people Navajo Times and what a shame to be a Navajo

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:38pm
  21. I think that the native people deserve to have their own laws in the subject and there is nothing we can do to change it

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:46pm
  22. They are so concerned about the legacy and survival of their tribe and culture, but gays left for the cities long ago. There are many modern Native Americans living their culture and traditions outside the tribe in ABQ and Santa Fe, and they will likely keep the Navajo Nation thriving better than their elders. Everyone grow, now.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:46pm
  23. Oh yes David, by saying we don’t have a place to tell them how to live that makes me a homophobe and a racist? You sound more like a bigot if you ask me.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:49pm
  24. That doesn’t necessarily mean i agree with what they do, freedom goes both ways. They should be able to choose on their own time. They are separated from our government and laws and we have no right to infringe upon their lives. Instead of the gay community being so counter productive by calling everybody bigots and conforming everybody by boycott. Why don’t we just educate those people and stop being hypocrites? The whole point of this fight is for diversity.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:53pm
  25. I agree with Rob James

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:54pm
  26. I hope the Navajo Leaders stand their ground and UPHOLD THE BAN!!!!!!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:12pm
  27. Yes, and ostracize their own people. Good damn job.

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:41pm
  28. yea because people should live their lives the someone else wants them too. how about we make your dumb ass live a way we want you too. its funny you pricks think you have the right to even say that shit!

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:17pm
  29. Native peoples have long history of two spirited peoples, from North America all the way down to Latin America, what they need to understand is that the ideals they are upholding are just residuals of their/our colonization!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:13pm
  30. Haha good thing I’m not a navi.:)

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:18pm
  31. This is nothing new. The Navajo Nation has just about always had a bone to pick with the State of New Mexico. It is, to be honest, a part of New Mexico’s history.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:18pm
  32. so sorry

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:26pm
  33. Native Americans rule their own reservations!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:53pm
  34. This was unexpected…native americans always promoted family and love…and not to support gays and lesbians astonishes me. Why are you all of a sudden thinking like a white man? No disrespect to no one. But I am native american and a lesbian…I am very proud to be both. Because I am true to myself and true to others…Its all about love not hate. Dont do what the white man has done for centuries to you. Dont stup to there level…May the great spirit help you find your way and show you how love comes in different forms.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 7:03pm
  35. now this is spreading its so awsome

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 7:14pm
  36. tell you what make it legal or we take away state funding

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 7:15pm
  37. I guess they never knew what its like to be a persecuted minority, disliked for who they are, and received unequal treatment under the law. :-/

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 7:17pm
  38. The Two-Spirit folks must be PISSED…

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 7:52pm
  39. Not getting my quarters in their slots.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:00pm
  40. really! even though its known in indian culture to actually praise homosexuality and once called us two spirits and urged the people to have gay relationships in hopes that they too would gain two spirits.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:04pm
  41. i guess no religion or spirituality follows their own rules. i guess everyone thinks its ok to just change their belifs based on hate. just goes to show you how evil religion really is but merely masked by saying they r doing the right thing

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:07pm
  42. Navajo culture was corrupted by christians a long time ago. Sad. One would hope the Navajo would rid themselves of christianity’s vile influence.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:15pm
  43. I thought the Navajo were more current than this.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:18pm
  44. This surprises me. The Navajo Nation of all peoples should understand, not being treated equal, having people discriminate against you.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:50pm
  45. lets share the peace pipe…….

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:52pm
  46. I travel to NM several times a year and always purchase Native American made items. I did not know they had such a law. I will not purchase anything more made by the tribe until they change their laws. I will have to look into the other tribes stance in this issue.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:59pm
  47. It is appalling to me that the Navajo Nation would go against it’s own historical culture to ban same sex marriage. Berdache has ben part of the Navajo nation for centuries. A feminine male revered by the tribe and a masculine female also revered by he tribe each marrying a member of the same sex. A masculine male taking the berdache as his wife and a Masculine female taking a feminine female as her wife. They were revered because they were believed to possess the spirit of a man and a woman or two-spirits. A belief that changed when the missionaries came in and proceeded to convert the population to Christianity. Nothing wrong with that. However, is it not a long held goal of all Native American nations to adhere as much as possible to their original cultural beliefs?? I’m just saying.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 9:18pm
  48. The ‘two-spirit’ people of indigenous North Americans
    This week’s guest editor, Antony Hegarty, is a fan of the book The Spirit and the Flesh. He asked its author, Walter L Williams, to write a feature for on the ‘two-spirit’ tradition in Native American culture
    Share 631

    Walter L Williams, Monday 11 October 2010 07.28 EDT

    We-Wa, a Zuni two-spirit, weaving
    Native Americans have often held intersex, androgynous people, feminine males and masculine females in high respect. The most common term to define such persons today is to refer to them as “two-spirit” people, but in the past feminine males were sometimes referred to as “berdache” by early French explorers in North America, who adapted a Persian word “bardaj”, meaning an intimate male friend. Because these androgynous males were commonly married to a masculine man, or had sex with men, and the masculine females had feminine women as wives, the term berdache had a clear homosexual connotation. Both the Spanish settlers in Latin America and the English colonists in North America condemned them as “sodomites”.

    Rather than emphasising the homosexuality of these persons, however, many Native Americans focused on their spiritual gifts. American Indian traditionalists, even today, tend to see a person’s basic character as a reflection of their spirit. Since everything that exists is thought to come from the spirit world, androgynous or transgender persons are seen as doubly blessed, having both the spirit of a man and the spirit of a woman. Thus, they are honoured for having two spirits, and are seen as more spiritually gifted than the typical masculine male or feminine female.

    Therefore, many Native American religions, rather than stigmatising such persons, often looked to them as religious leaders and teachers. Quite similar religious traditions existed among the native peoples of Siberia and many parts of Central and southeast Asia. Since the ancestors of Native Americans migrated from Siberia over 20,000 years ago, and since reports of highly respected androgynous persons have been noted among indigenous Americans from Alaska to Chile, androgyny seems to be quite ancient among humans.

    Rather than the physical body, Native Americans emphasised a person’s “spirit”, or character, as being most important. Instead of seeing two-spirit persons as transsexuals who try to make themselves into “the opposite sex”, it is more accurate to understand them as individuals who take on a gender status that is different from both men and women. This alternative gender status offers a range of possibilities, from slightly effeminate males or masculine females, to androgynous or transgender persons, to those who completely cross-dress and act as the other gender. The emphasis of Native Americans is not to force every person into one box, but to allow for the reality of diversity in gender and sexual identities.

    Most of the evidence for respectful two-spirit traditions is focused on the native peoples of the Plains, the Great Lakes, the Southwest, and California. With over a thousand vastly different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, it is important not to overgeneralise for the indigenous peoples of North America. Some documentary sources suggest that a minority of societies treated two-spirit persons disrespectfully, by kidding them or discouraging children from taking on a two-spirit role. However, many of the documents that report negative reactions are themselves suspect, and should be evaluated critically in light of the preponderance of evidence that suggests a respectful attitude. Some European commentators, from early frontier explorers to modern anthropologists, also were influenced by their own homophobic prejudices to distort native attitudes.

    Two-spirit people were respected by native societies not only due to religious attitudes, but also because of practical concerns. Because their gender roles involved a mixture of both masculine and feminine traits, two-spirit persons could do both the work of men and of women. They were often considered to be hard workers and artistically gifted, of great value to their extended families and community. Among some groups, such as the Navajo, a family was believed to be economically benefited by having a “nadleh” (literally translated as “one who is transformed”) androgynous person as a relative. Two-spirit persons assisted their siblings’ children and took care of elderly relatives, and often served as adoptive parents for homeless children.

    A feminine male who preferred to do women’s work (gathering wild plants or farming domestic plants) was logically expected to marry a masculine male, who did men’s work (hunting and warfare). Because a family needed both plant foods and meat, a masculine female hunter, in turn, usually married a feminine female, to provide these complementary gender roles for economic survival. The gender-conforming spouse of two-spirit people did not see themselves as “homosexual” or as anything other than “normal”.

    In the 20th-century, as homophobic European Christian influences increased among many Native Americans, respect for same-sex love and for androgynous persons greatly declined. Two-spirit people were often forced, either by government officials, Christian missionaries or their own community, to conform to standard gender roles. Some, who could not conform, either went underground or committed suicide. With the imposition of Euro-American marriage laws, same-sex marriages between two-spirit people and their spouses were no longer legally recognised. But with the revitalisation of Native American “red power” cultural pride since the 60s, and the rise of gay and lesbian liberation movements at the same time, a new respect for androgyny started slowly re-emerging among American Indian people.

    Because of this tradition of respect, in the 90s many gay and lesbian Native American activists in the United States and Canada rejected the French word berdache in favour of the term two-spirit people to describe themselves. Many non-American Indians have incorporated knowledge of Native American two-spirit traditions into their increasing acceptance of same-sex love, androgyny and transgender diversity. Native American same-sex marriages have been used as a model for legalising same-sex marriages, and the spiritual gifts of androgynous persons have started to become more recognised.

    Walter L Williams is the author of The Spirit and the Flesh (Boston: Beacon Press) and is Professor of Anthropology, History and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California. His most recent book, Two Spirits: A Story Of Life With The Navajo is out now

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 9:37pm
  49. Sigh!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 10:09pm
  50. Shame!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 10:45pm
  51. nice bullet holes

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 11:59pm