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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Navajo Nation outlaws same-sex marriage

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Navajo Nation outlaws same-sex marriage

Tue Apr 26, 8:35 PM ET
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Christopher Curtis, PlanetOut Network

SUMMARY: The tribal council of the Navajo Nation outlawed same-sex marriages in a unanimous vote. The Dine Marriage Act also prevents plural marriages and marriages between close relatives.

The tribal council of the Navajo Nation outlawed same-sex marriages in a unanimous vote on Friday.

The Dine Marriage Act of 2005 restricts marriage to a man and a woman, and prevents plural marriages and marriages between close relatives. "Dine" is the Navajos' name for themselves.

The ban will affect the 255,543 members of the Navajo Nation, which extends into the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

"Men and women have been created in a sacred manner. We need to honor this," delegate Harriet Becenti told the Associated Press (AP). "Times have changed, and we are no longer really teaching our children. We want our people to realize that support is in existence for a man and woman."

Delegate Lorenzo Curley told the AP that Navajo leaders want to send a message to the tribe's young people. "We want to say to them, 'Hold on fast to your society, your roots, your values,'" he said. "We are here to defend the foundation of our society. That's what is at stake here."

But critics of the measure claim its sponsor, delegate Larry Anderson of Fort Defiance, Ariz., is rewriting Navajo cultural history.

The Navajo history actually honors men who take on the role of women. According to Bruce Pierini, author of "The Gendered Body: Sex and Gender Constructions in Navajo," the position was called "nadleeh," and it was one of the most highly venerated positions among Native Americans in North America.

While several Native-American cultures have a tradition honoring "two-spirit" people, who would marry members of the same sex, efforts to fight same-sex marriage on reservations have intensified.

In August the Cherokee National Tribal Council in Oklahoma voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman after two women successfully filed for a tribal marriage application.

Jay Smith Brown, senior communications manager for the Human Rights Campaign condemned the Navajo vote, saying, "Discrimination is wrong in every culture."
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