Farmington — Although the New Mexico Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage, the Navajo Nation law prohibiting such unions stands.
In June 2005, the Navajo Nation Council enacted the Diné Marriage Act to recognize marriages "contracted" outside of tribal lands but that law says same-sex marriage is "void and prohibited."
Navajo law also does not recognize polygamy or marriage between family members.
"The purposes of marriage on the Navajo Nation are to promote strong families and to preserve and strengthen family values," the law states.
Deswood Tome, an advisor to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, said New Mexico's legalization of same-sex marriage does not affect tribal law.
The Navajo Tribe is a sovereign nation and while it respects the laws of other states and agencies, it has established its own law regarding same-sex marriage and that remains in place until the council decides otherwise, he said.
"We are upholding the law as currently enacted," Tome said.
Jared Touchin, spokesman for the Office of the Speaker, said the court decision has the potential to make people, including Navajo lawmakers, rethink the issue.
"However, most would agree that the Navajo Nation has taken a conservative approach to gay marriage, exemplified by the Diné Marriage Act of 2005," he said, adding that there is currently no official proposal to repeal the act.
Even though the tribe remains steadfast on keeping gay marriage illegal, the state Supreme Court ruling does reignite dialogue among tribal members, said Alray Nelson, founder of the Coalition for Navajo Equality, a group working to repeal the Diné Marriage Act.
"It tells our leaders that the Diné Marriage Act is a law of discrimination," Nelson said.
Since its enactment, there have been efforts to end the ban, including talking to Navajo lawmakers, and the coalition has considered filing a lawsuit in tribal court or placing the issue before the Navajo people for a vote, he said.
There are eight tribes which allow same-sex marriage, including the Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon, the Santa Ysabel Tribe in California, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington State, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma.