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On July 26, the 25th Navajo Nation Council’s Health, Education, and Human Services Standing Committee (HEHSC) approved legislation that recognizes same-sex marriages within the Navajo Nation. 

The legislation has several other committees and hurdles to go through before becoming law.

The legislation would amend other provisions within the Navajo Nation Code, but the traditional Navajo wedding ceremony involving a man and a woman would remain unchanged. 

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“We need to come to an agreement for our Navajo couples so they can identify their beneficiaries,” HEHSC Chair Vince James said in a statement. “The couples who decide to share their lives together should be able to make these decisions.” 

Traditional ceremony aside, there are other issues that can arise, such as when same-sex couples get married at the state level but return home to conduct same-sex traditional marriages.

“Because there isn't a traditional wedding ceremony that involves same-sex couples, there is a concern about who will enforce upholding traditional marriages as they stand,” James said, adding the legislation fundamentally addresses spousal rights that are already afforded to male and female unions. 

Since 2005, same-sex marriages have been prohibited when the Navajo council overwhelmingly voted to pass the Diné Marriage Act, overriding a presidential veto of the act. 

The legislation will now move forward to the Law and Order Standing Committee.

“If there are no amendments, as it stands, this legislation is about marriage and I understand where the legislation is coming from,” James said. “If amendments come in regarding enforcement, punishment and penalties, it will make a difference in how I vote.”

During HEHSC’s regular meeting, the legislation was approved with a vote of two in favor, one opposed, two excused, and James abstaining.

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