Diné Pride Week recognized on Navajo Nation

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Diné Pride Finance Director Brennen Yonnie, left, and Executive Director Alray Nelson show the proclamation for Diné Pride Week after the signing ceremony on June 22 in Window Rock, Arizona. The couple have been advocating for marriage equality on the Navajo Nation since 2013.

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Council is recognizing this week as Diné Pride Week on the Navajo Nation.

Speaker Seth Damon signed on June 22 a proclamation to recognize and celebrate the LGBTQIA community during an event in front of the council chamber in Window Rock, Arizona.

Adhering to public health orders for the novel coronavirus, attendance at the event was limited and it was shown live on the council's social media channels.

Damon mentioned that last year the rainbow flag of the LGBTQIA community flew for the first time over the council chamber.

Despite the recognition, there remain tribal laws that do not protect or provide equal treatment to members of the LGBTQIA community, including the Diné Marriage Act, he said.

A screenshot shows Speaker Seth Damon talking before signing the proclamation to recognize Diné Pride Week in a live stream on Vimeo on June 22.

The Diné Marriage Act was signed into law in 2005 and prohibits same sex marriage on the Navajo Nation.

"It's time for us to open up an opportunity to have further discussions in making sure that every single person on the nation has an opportunity with their partner, their significant other," Damon said before signing the proclamation.

He recognized that not everyone will agree to such change, but said the time has arrived to recognize the LGBTQIA community and to set the path for the next seven generations.

The change in law could arrive this summer when Delegate Carl Slater introduces legislation to repeal the Diné Marriage Act and institute protections from discrimination for LGBTQIA persons on tribal land.

The bill is under legal review by the Office of Legislative Counsel and Slater hopes to introduce it this week.

Among those who attended the signing ceremony were Alray Nelson and his husband, Brennen Yonnie.

From left, board members for Diné Pride Alray Nelson, Brennen Yonnie, Curtis Berry, Rapheal Begay and Geronimo Louie stand with Delegate Carl Slater, Speaker Seth Damon and Delegate Charlaine Tso after the signing event to declare Diné Pride Week on the Navajo Nation on June 22 in Window Rock, Arizona.

Nelson and Yonnie founded the organizations, Diné Pride and Diné Equality, and both have been advocating for marriage equality on Navajoland since 2013.

Nelson said the goal of Slater's legislation is to redefine Navajo law and treat the LGBTQIA community with fairness and equality, including in marriage and in employment.

He added that work on the bill began last year by Diné Pride, Diné Equality, Slater, Damon and Delegates Charlaine Tso, Eugenia Charles-Newton, Amber Kanazbah Crotty and Nathaniel Brown.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

Support local journalism with a digital subscription to The Daily Times.