Originally published on Advocate.com May 03 2005 12:00 AM ET
Navajo Nation president Joe Shirley Jr. has vetoed a measure that would have outlawed same-sex marriage on the Indian reservation, which reaches into New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. "Same-sex marriage is a nonissue on Navajo land," Shirley said in vetoing the measure Sunday. "So why waste time and resources on it? We have more important issues to address."
If members of the Navajo Nation wish to define marriage or take a position for or against same-sex unions, Shirley said, he would support their decision to do that through an initiative rather than a Tribal Council vote. The Tribal Council voted unanimously last month in favor of the Dine Marriage
Act of 2005. (Dine is the Navajos' name for themselves.)
The act would have restricted a recognized union to a relationship between a man and a woman, which would prohibit plural marriages as well as marriages between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, brothers and sisters, and other close relatives. There was no answer at the Tribal Council speaker's office Sunday night.
Supporters have said the goal was to promote Navajo family values and preserve marriage as a sacred union between a man and a woman.
Shirley said in a prepared statement released on Sunday that he strongly supports and encourages family stability and the need for Navajo husbands and wives to love and support each other and their children. However, the proposed measure said nothing about domestic violence, sexual assault, and gangs on the Navajo Nation, problems Shirley said are rampant.
The law focused on a problem that doesn't exist and would only generate disharmony and disunity among the Navajo people, he said. The measure also goes against the Navajo teaching of nondiscrimination and doing no psychological or physical harm to others, according to Shirley.
Other critics of the legislation had said its sponsor, Delegate Larry Anderson of Fort Defiance, was attempting to rewrite cultural history to parallel conservative Christian backlash against gay rights across the United States.
Same-sex marriages became a national issue last year, starting February 12 in San Francisco when Mayor Gavin Newsom opened the city's wedding registry to gays couples. The debate reached New Mexico later that month when the Sandoval County clerk issued licenses to about 60 same-sex couples, but the state attorney general quickly settled the matter by advising that the licenses were illegal. Last August the Cherokee National Tribal Council in Oklahoma voted to clearly define marriage as between a man and a woman. (AP)