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A Navajo Nation Lawmaker Has Introduced Marriage Equality Legislation

Eugene Tso
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Eugene Tso

Navajo Council Delegate Eugene Tso sponsored a bill that will be heard later this year.

In 2005, the Navajo Nation passed the Dine Marriage Act prohibiting members from entering into same-sex marriages. Currently, queer Navajo couples who've received marriage licenses from their states won't have their unions recognized, nor can they be married in the Nation. However, legislation sponsored by Navajo Council delegate Eugene Tso in late March seeks to change that by repealing or adding gender-neutral sections to the marriage act.

With an estimated 173,000 members, the Navajo Nation is the largest tribal group in the country that doesn't allow for its same-sex couples to share the same benefits as their straight counterparts, including health care and shared property rights.

In the Navajo legislative process, a five-day public comment period comes after a bill is proposed. From March 22 to 27, about 90 people wrote in comments, according to Source NM.Forty-nine of the comments were in favor of recognizing same-sex marriages while 36 were opposed. Four comments weren't included.

Church leaders became involved by passing around petitions. Those who took issue with the new legislation largely did so based on Christian dogma. Those who supported the expansion of marriage rights in the nation cited the need for equal rights for all members of the Nation. Some pointed to the banning of marriage rights for same-sex couples as having colonialist origins, citing the tradition of Two-Spirit people, who are known as "Nadleehi" in Navajo culture.

From here, the bill will move to four committees to be heard. However, according to a spokesperson speaking with Source NM, the hearings likely won't be held until later this summer or fall.

The outlet notes that while Tso's bill would recognize same-sex marriage, it would maintain that traditional marriage ceremonies would be between men and women.

While the Navajo Nation has banned same-sex marriage, it does allow for Pride celebrations. The Nation has also enacted an Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination based on gender and sexuality.

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