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US: Group in largest Native American tribe hopes to legalise equal marriage

Joseph McCormick December 30, 2013
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Members of the largest federally recognised Native American tribe in the US hope to follow suit of the US state of New Mexico and remove a 2005 ban on equal marriage.

The Navajo people enacted a ban on same-sex marriage back in 2005. The Diné Marriage Act was brought in in 2005, and specifically defined marriage as between one man and one woman.

It specified that same-sex unions were “void and prohibited”.

Now the Coalition for Navajo Equality hopes to follow in the footsteps of the state of New Mexico which legalised equal marriage two weeks ago, and the US Supreme Court which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in June.

“The Diné Marriage Act legislation is unnecessary and addresses issues already governed by existing law and by cultural values and our clan system,” Joe Shirley Jr said on behalf of the coalition in a statement.

Ben Shelly, the Nation President, recently also said he supported equal marriage. He said: “We’ve got some catching up here to do with our laws, our codes and what we operate our government under.”

The sovereign Navajo Nation’s borders spill over into New Mexico’s northeast section. The Supreme Court in New Mexico on 19 December legalised equal marriage, declaring it is unconstitutional to deny marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The first same-sex wedding ceremony in March took place in the US state of Michigan, following a Native American tribe signing equal marriage into law.

Earlier in the month, the legislative body of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians voted 5-4 to amend its laws to allow equal marriage.

In 2008, the Coquille Indian Tribe on the southern Oregon coast, who are a federally recognised sovereign nation, are not bound by Oregon’s constitution, allowed equal marriage amongst its members.

In 2011, the Suquamish Tribal Council voted to give marriage rights to gay couples on its Seattle reservation.

More: american indian, equal marriage ban, native american, New Mexico, US

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