LGBT rights in the Navajo Nation

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the Navajo Nation, the largest indigenous sovereign state in the United States, face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity is legal, but same-sex unions are not recognized.

As with many Native American nations, traditional Navajo belief includes a two-spirit conception of gender-variant individuals and accepts two-spirited individuals as valid members of the community. Nádleehi (Navajo: naadleeh or nádleehé; literally one who constantly transforms) refers to individuals who are a "male-bodied person with a feminine nature". Historically, the Navajo recognized four gender roles: asdzáán (feminine female), hastíín (masculine male), dilbaa (masculine female), and nádleehi (feminine male). The nádleehi identity is fluid, and such individuals may display both male and female characteristics. Due to the perceived "balance" between both sexes, they were typically chosen for certain societal and communal roles, such as spiritual healers. They would traditionally wear female clothes and do female work, and some would have sexual relations with men which was accepted by the tribe.[1]

Opposition to homosexuality and gender-fluidity was introduced by Christian missionaries and the US federal government, specifically through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Currently, the suicide attempt rate for Navajo LGBT youths is three times that of white LGBT youths. Because of the generational change in attitudes, Navajo LGBT youths may face opposition from their parents' generation but find acceptance from their grandparents.[2]

Same-sex marriage is not valid under Navajo law, even if performed in a jurisdiction such as Arizona where it is legal.[3] Because of this, same-sex couples do not have the rights accorded by the tribal government to opposite-sex married couples.[4] Same-sex marriage is explicitly prohibited by the Diné Marriage Act (see #External links), an amendment to the tribal code enacted on April 22, 2005.[5] The act was vetoed by then–Navajo President Joe Shirley, Jr.,[6] but the veto was overridden by the Navajo Nation Council.[7] In the run-up to the 2018 elections, both Shirley and his opponent, Jonathan Nez, said they strongly supported a repeal of the act, and Shirley said they had 14 of the 16 votes needed on the council for repeal.[8]

Summary table[edit]

Homosexuality legal Yes
Equal age of consent (follows state law)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas
Same-sex marriages No (banned 2005)
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Access to IVF for lesbians
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples
Conversion therapy banned on minors
MSMs allowed to donate blood

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • "Diné Marriage Act of 2005" (PDF). Navajo Courts. Retrieved 2019-02-23.


  1. ^ A Glimpse Into The Diné Gender System And Two Spirit People
  2. ^ "LGBT Navajos Discover Unexpected Champions: Their Grandparents". National Public Radio (US). 2019-12-26. Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ "Oregon tribe to allow same-sex marriages". 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2009-12-31.
  5. ^ Dempsey, Pamela (2005-04-23). "Navajo Nation officially bans same-sex marriage". The Independent. Gallup, NM. Diné Bureau. Archived from the original on 2010-02-03. Retrieved 2010-01-01. Same-sex unions are now officially banned on the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation Council passed the Diné Marriage Act of 2005 with a 67–0–0 vote on Friday.
  6. ^ Norrell, Brenda (2005-05-05). "Navajo president vetoes gay marriage ban". Indian Country Today. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
  7. ^ "Tribal challenge to same-sex marriage dismissed". Indianz.Com. 2005-08-04. Archived from the original on 2011-05-30. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
  8. ^ "Gay couples from largest Native American tribe call for marriage equality". SBS News. 2018-10-29. Retrieved 2019-02-23.