The Navajo Nation Code currently prohibits same-sex marriage, but delegates have introduced a bill to change that.
On June 23, Delegate Seth Damon signed and sponsored Legislation 0139-23 which would repeal Title 9 of the Navajo Nation Code, the ban on same-sex marriage that was passed in 2005. Title 9 was enacted during the surge of bans on same-sex marriage being passed from state to state during George W. Bush’s presidency.
“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,” Delegate Damon said. Nádleehí is a gender identity that is specific to the Diné (Navajo) people.
The language of the bill recognizes this two-spirit heritage as part of the colonialist context for how Title 9 came to be and why the Navajo Nation should repeal it.
“Navajo society accepted multi-gendered individuals prior to European arrival,” the bill reads. “European religious influence viewed homosexuality as an intolerable sin. As a result, acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer, two-spirit (LGBTQ+) declined within tribal nations. Today, many tribal nations have repealed same-sex prohibition laws.”
Legislation 0139-23 also lays out arguments that the U.S. now federally recognizes marriage equality and that this bill would not change the traditional Navajo wedding ceremony by allowing other weddings to happen.
Former Council Delegate Eugene Tso attended the Diné Pride ceremony where Damon signed the legislation. Tso introduced a similar bill last year that was never heard.
“We live with people we love. There should be no discussion about it when this legislation comes to the floor,” Tso said. “Why would you debate it? This is who we are. We’re Diné.”