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Marriage Equality Debate Arises Anew In Navajo Nation

NavajoIn 2005, during the height of anti-gay marriage fear-mongering of the Bush years, the Navajo nation passed the Dines Marriage Act, which prohibits same-sex marriage.

Now, eight years and massive amounts of political progress later, LGBT activists within the Navajo nation are hoping to reverse course.

The Navajo Post reports that LGBT activists, Desmond Tome, an adviser to Navajo President Ben Shelley, and Arizona State. openly gay Sen. Jack Jackson Jr. were all on hand to debate the matter at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona, Friday. All seem to agree that traditional resistance among tribal elders will be the highest hurdle:

[Tome] said he spoke with Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly about the complexities and he said the President respects the gay community, referring to them as the five fingered people in 'Navajo' and they are just like everyone else.

Tome was also asked directly if the Navajo Nation would allow same-sex marriage, and he redirected the question to the Navajo Nation Council Delegate Johnathan Hale for an answer.


The forum speakers were careful not to say with [policy] specifics, [like] if the Navajo Nation would support a gay marriage bill, [but] they did suggest to the lesbian and gay community to be careful not to push the issue on the Navajo elders that may still be against a bill that would allow same sex marriages on the reservation. Some could argue the Navajo traditional culture does allow same sex marriage, by being the 'two spirited' one.

"Two-spirited" people are said to fulfill both gender roles. The concept of marriage equality would likely go against views of gender and sex based on this ancient tradition.

[Image via orbegay.]

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  1. You know what?...we've all got "ancient traditions." So what? It's time that a whole lot of them were modified - yes, gradually is best...and the Navaho do have a well-established history of "gay" recognition.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Jan 27, 2013 11:59:20 AM

  2. Oh, the sins that are committed in the name of tradition ...

    Posted by: Leroy Laflamme | Jan 27, 2013 12:26:58 PM

  3. Oh, the sins that are committed in the name of tradition ...

    Posted by: Leroy Laflamme | Jan 27, 2013 12:26:59 PM

  4. Once again it returns to a generational discussion of 'gender' vs 'spirit'. They are not now, never have been and never will be mutually exclusive. Folks just insist on fear and hate.

    Posted by: Geoff | Jan 27, 2013 2:39:14 PM

  5. Please note that both the Coquille Tribe of Oregon and the Suquamish Tribe of Washington state have recognised marriage equality.

    Posted by: melvin | Jan 27, 2013 2:48:29 PM

  6. Major props to my good friend Senator Jack Jackson Jr.!!

    Posted by: Gary A | Jan 27, 2013 3:07:17 PM

  7. Anti-gay hate is not a traditional Navajo value. It came in with the Europeans. But then, so did cowboy hats and the English language ...

    Posted by: Glenn I | Jan 27, 2013 4:21:28 PM

  8. I guess the Catholics taught the Navajo very well about how to hate one another...

    Posted by: Bill Michael | Jan 28, 2013 2:18:43 AM

  9. Native Americans as a group, especially those on reservations, have MUCH BIGGER issues to deal with than gay marriage. This issue is ultimately the epitome of a comfortable middle class and wealthy issue.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jan 28, 2013 10:09:14 AM

  10. @Bill Michael: First Nations (I prefer the Canadian term) didn't need any help from Christian missionaries to learn problematic behavior.

    Posted by: Diogenes Arktos | Jan 28, 2013 5:00:52 PM

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