Navajo Nation Council delegate removes support for same-sex marriage bill

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The bill proposing to lift the ban on same-sex marriage on the Navajo Nation is no more now that it has been withdrawn from the tribal council.

Delegate Eugene Tso withdrew his support on April 26 for the legislation that sought to amend tribal law to allow tribal members to marry on the tribal land regardless of sexual orientation and remove any provisions that discriminate against same-sex marriage.

It also proposed to update tribal laws to strengthen a woman's rights in marriage when it comes to matters such as property and earnings and open benefits to all employees working for the tribal government.

Tso announced his intention to end his support to the Budget and Finance Committee during a special meeting on April 26 but promised to reintroduce the bill this summer.

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A participant finishes taping a sign to their vehicle before the start of the Diné Pride Cruise on June 26, 2020 in Window Rock, Arizona.

"I'm going to resubmit it with new research and more amendments," he said to the committee.

His remarks included acknowledgement that the bill received mixed comments from tribal members – several that supported the LGBTQ community and many that stated same-sex marriage goes against teachings and values in The Bible.

Removing the bill gives supporters more time to strengthen its purpose so it can reach Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez's desk later this year, he said.

Tso signed the form to withdraw his sponsorship on the afternoon of April 26, according to the Office of Legislative Services.

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At right, Alray Nelson, executive director of Diné Pride, decorates his vehicle on June 26, 2020 before the start of the Diné Pride Cruise in Window Rock, Arizona.

The bill was assigned to four committees and the Navajo Nation Council. It received a "do not pass" recommendation from its first committee assignment.

Tso's action was no surprise to Alray Nelson, executive director of Diné Pride, the annual event in June that celebrates LGBTQ and Two-Spirit people on the Navajo Nation.

Nelson explained that the Diné Pride Board of Directors was aware of Tso's intention and they reached the consensus that the bill needs further development and public education about its purpose.

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The Diné Pride Cruise proceeds in Window Rock, Arizona on June 26, 2020.

"We agree with where Delegate Eugene Tso is taking this legislation into the future," Nelson said. "He is committed to reintroducing new legislation this summer."

The additional time will help Diné Pride to obtain more support for marriage equality and protecting the rights of Navajo women on their petition on Change.org.

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.

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