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Navajo Nation bill would repeal its same-sex marriage ban

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The country’s largest tribal nation, the Navajo Nation, is considering legislation to repeal its ban on same-sex marriage.

The Navajo Nation lies within Arizona, Utah and New Mexico and has approximately 400,000 members. The tribal government banned same-sex marriages almost 20 years ago via the Diné Marriage Act of 2005.

Alray Nelson heads the LGBTQ+ Indigenous advocacy group Navajo Nation Pride. He says the ban has created obstacles for partners who want to adopt, build a house, and have joint health insurance, among other rights afforded opposite-sex couples.

“In order for us to really feel safe in our own communities living on the Navajo Nation, the Nation has to open up those doors and send a message to the rest of the country that the largest tribal nation in the United States is inclusive, and you’re a part of our family,” Nelson said.

Nelson says LGBTQ+ people have always been a part of Navajo society, and yet he finds it contradictory when some tribal leaders see same-sex marriage and honoring transgendered individuals as foreign.

“That is completely wrong — it’s coming from a settler, colonial mindset. We need to destigmatize that and really focus on hózhó, which means ‘harmony and balance’ in Navajo,” Nelson said.

He estimates out of the 574 federally recognized tribal nations in the U.S., there are about a dozen bans still in place.

Next, the proposal to repeal the ban, Legislation 0054-22, will go to the tribe’s Health, Education, and Human Services Committee.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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