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Gay marriage debate comes to Navajo Nation

Gay marriage debate comes to Navajo Nation

The debate over same-sex marriage is coming to the Navajo Nation. Tribal Council delegate Larry Anderson Sr. of Arizona has proposed legislation that would restrict a recognized union to a relationship between a man and woman. "Navajo Nation laws...are outdated and need to be updated. That's why I'm asking for an amendment that states it is unlawful to have a marriage between two [same] sexes," Anderson, the delegate from Fort Defiance, said. Critics of the proposed legislation say Anderson is attempting to rewrite cultural history to parallel conservative Christian backlash against gay rights across the United States. Wesley K. Thomas, a Navajo originally from Mariano Lake and an assistant professor of anthropology at Indiana University at Bloomington said same-sex relations among Navajo and other native peoples did not become an issue until Christian values were forced upon tribes 150 years ago. "It wouldn't have been a question since it was a normal part of life," Thomas said. "It wasn't hidden. It's being questioned because of the immersion and acculturation of the dominant society. This [proposed] legislation is a romantic image that Anderson is trying to instill." Anderson said his legislation is intended to "promote strong families and strong family values," not discriminate. He noted that members of the Navajo Nation Council who are gay or lesbian or who have issues with the proposed legislation will be allowed to express their concern before the vote, which will take place during the Navajo Nation Council winter session, January 24-29. "They're going to be submitting their comments on the Navajo Nation Council floor," Anderson said. President Joe Shirley Jr. couldn't be reached for comment. The Navajo president's chief of staff said Shirley is a traditional man who is also respectful of today's society, but he didn't know which position Shirley would take on the issue. Thomas said he believes the proposed legislation will pass because Navajo people have become conditioned to accept Western values. Anderson said he used traditional Navajo teachings as a basis for his proposed legislation. "Traditionally, Navajos have always respected the woman and the man union. Family values are important. The Navajo elders said we should respect both men and women," he said. Shiprock council delegate Wallace Charley agreed with Anderson. "Those things are part of Navajo philosophy, and it states that marriage is not to be done by the same sex. There is a Navajo philosophy that tells you why and explains the reasoning behind the teaching," Charley said. (AP)

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