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Delegates sponsor bill to legalize same-sex marriage on Navajo Nation

FARMINGTON — Lawmakers on the Navajo Nation are seeking to repeal the tribe’s law that prohibits same-sex marriage and remove any provisions that discriminate against such unions.

The Diné Marriage Act has been law since 2005 and recognizes marriages between opposite-sex couples, regardless of where contracted, but voids and prohibits marriage between persons of the same sex.

The bill proposes that the tribe acknowledge and recognize marriage equality among all people on the Navajo Nation.

“As a lawmaker, this historic legislation was introduced to recognize that we are all equal and we support our LGBTQ+ family members by repealing outdated discriminatory laws,” Delegate Eugene Tso said on March 23, a day after he introduced the bill.

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Tso, along with delegates Eugenia Charles-Newton and Charlaine Tso, are sponsoring the legislation, which is being hailed by tribal members who have been advocating for marriage equality.

“Our laws should allow us to choose to marry the person we love and equally protect us from hate and discrimination,” said Josie Raphaelito, program director of Navajo Nation Pride.

The bill calls on amending provisions within the Navajo Nation Code to conform with the repeal, including omitting gender references in common-law marriages and on tribal marriage license forms.

Clockwise from left, the transgender flag, Navajo Nation flag, gay pride flag, equality flag and inclusive flag fly in front of the Navajo Nation Council chamber on June 26, 2020 in Window Rock, Arizona.

However, it keeps intact traditional Navajo wedding ceremonies as taking place between a man and a woman.

“Traditional Navajo society places a great importance upon the institution of marriage and believes that the elaborate ritual of marrying using the traditional method is believed to be blessed by the ‘Holy People,'” the bill states.

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