Navajo Nation lawmaker introduces bill to legalise same-sex marriage

An audience dressed in Pride t shirts gather around Seth Damon as he signs legislation on a desk covered with Pride flags.

A bill recognising same-sex marriage in the Navajo Nation region of the US has been proposed by pro-LGBTQ+ lawmakers.

The Native American-governed US town’s speaker, Seth Damon, signed and sponsored legislation that, if passed, would make the region the latest to recognise same-sex marriages.

Introduced during the Navajo Nation Pride opening ceremony on 23 June, Damon said that homophobic rhetoric “does not uniformly welcome or support the well-being of all Diné”.

He added: “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.”

The legislation would amend provisions within the Navajo Nation Code to ensure that same-sex marriage is codified into law.

The law originally prohibiting same-sex marriage in the Navajo Nation – the Dinė Marriage Act – was passed following a campaign across the US by President George W Bush to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

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However, after a Supreme Court ruling in 2015 legalised same-sex marriage nationwide, the Navajo Council had yet to repeal the Dinė Marriage Act.

Despite this, a resolution was passed by the Council in 2020 which established a Dinė Pride Week to be held every June in honour of the region’s LGBTQ+ community.

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Since then, support for repealing Title 9 of the Navajo Nation Code, which prevents same-sex marriage, has risen sharply within 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,” Damon continued. “Whether our relatives are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transgender, non-gender specific, two-spirit, or Nádleehí.”

Among the signees during the opening ceremony was former Council delegate Eugene Tso, Council speaker Crystalyn, vice president Richelle Montoya, and president Buu Nygren.

In a statement following the signing, Nygren said that it would be “up to everyone here to submit their comments for its passage”.

A five-day public consultation period began following its introduction on 23 June and ended on 29 June.

Alray Nelson, co-founder and executive director of Diné Pride, said that those in support of the bill and the community would be on “the right side of history”.

“We see ourselves as sacred human beings,” Nelson added. “With that knowledge, we teach every LGBTQ+ young person that, not only is the Navajo Nation on the right side of history, but its leaders also support our community.

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