Bill introduced in Navajo Nation to legalize marriage equality

Delegate Seth Damon
Delegate Seth Damon Photo: Navajo Nation Council website

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Seth Damon of Bááháálí, New Mexico is sponsoring a bill to have the Navajo Nation recognize marriages between two people of any genders.

“The prohibition against same-sex marriages does not uniformly welcome or support the well-being of all Diné,” he said at Navajo Nation Pride last weekend. “Diné” is the Navajo word for “the people” and refers to the Navajo people. “The purpose of the legislation I’m sponsoring is to ensure that all Diné are welcome within the four sacred mountains and to recognize all marriages within the Navajo Nation.”

Marriage for same-sex couples was banned under Navajo law in 2005 when an amendment to the tribal code was enacted that said, “Marriage between persons of the same sex is void and prohibited.”

Then-Navajo President Joe Shirley, Jr. vetoed the measure, but the Navajo Nation Council overrode his veto. People in the Navajo Nation can still get married in the state they live, but same-sex married couples do not have the same rights as opposite-sex married couples in the Navajo Nation.

“We feel it’s in the best interest of the Navajo Nation to repeal Title 9 so that everyone can enjoy the full benefits of legal recognition of their marriages within the Navajo Nation, whether our relatives are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transgender, non-gender specific, two-spirit, or Nádleehí,” Damon said in a statement. “Nádleehí” refers to a gender category in Navajo culture.

“We see ourselves as sacred human beings,” Diné PRIDE co-founder Alray Nelson told Source NM. “And with that knowledge, we teach every LGBTQ young person not only is the Navajo Nation on the right side of history, but its leaders also support our community.”

The bill to overturn the marriage ban says that the Navajo people were more accepting of non-heterosexual people and people outside the gender binary before the arrival of European colonizers.

“The Navajo Nation further recognizes that Navajo society accepted multi-gendered individuals prior to European arrival,” the measure states. “European religious influence viewed homosexuality as an intolerable sin. As a result, acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer, two-spirit (LGBTQ+) people declined within tribal nations. Today, many tribal nations have repealed same-sex prohibition laws.”

Two bills to recognize same-sex marriages in the Navajo Nation were introduced last year. Both were rejected.

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