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Updated Jan 5, 2014 - 3:13 pm

Group wants to repeal Navajo same-sex marriage ban

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An effort to repeal the Navajo Nation’s same-sex
marriage ban has been energized by court decisions in some states to allow such

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Alray Nelson,
organizer of a gay and lesbian rights group advocating a repeal of the tribe’s
same-sex marriage ban, is looking for new members of the council to introduce a
repeal proposal.

Tribal sovereignty lets the Navajo Nation continue enforcement of its own 2005
gay marriage ban.

The nation’s ban isn’t affected by a New Mexico court decision that legalized
marriage for gay and lesbian couples and a subsequent ruling that struck down a
ban of same-sex marriage in Utah.

Council member Lorenzo Bates said no one on the council is pushing for a repeal
of the law and that constituents aren’t raising the issue.

Deswood Tome, an adviser to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, said the tribal
president respects the choice of gay or lesbian Navajos to get married
elsewhere, but that the president isn’t making a repeal of the tribe’s 2005 law
a priority.

“I don’t believe he’s going to advocate for it, because the president has
priorities in areas of job creation, business development, infrastructure,
housing, education, health and those right now are where the president’s focus
is,” Tome said. “I imagine the same with the Navajo Nation council.”

Just one of the current council’s 24 members voted against the marriage law in
2005, when the council comprised 88 delegates.

Meanwhile, 10 current council members voted in favor of the law. Nine delegates
to the council have been newly elected since the 2005 vote.

Navajo Council Speaker Johnny Naize said the ban is rooted in traditional
Navajo values, which for some Navajo families still mean that arranged marriages
and scripted interactions between families before a marriage is recognized.

“The tradition with that says that the marriage has to be between a man and
woman. That’s how we respect our tradition,” said Naize, who voted in favor of
the same-sex marriage ban in 2005.

That marriage tradition, he said, has nothing to do with discrimination. Unlike
Western culture, in which church and state are clearly separated, Navajo culture
intertwines government with cultural heritage.

Naize said he doesn’t expect the New Mexico ruling will create any pressure for
the tribe to reconsider its own marriage laws. Rather, the issue might be
reconsidered when Navajo traditional values “subside,” he said.

“Ten years, 15 years, I think,” Naize said.


Information from: Albuquerque Journal,


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