Navajo president vetoes measure against same-sex
May 2, 2005
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) - Navajo President Joe Shirley
Jr. has vetoed a measure that would have outlawed
same-sex marriage on the Indian reservation that
reaches into New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.
"Same-sex marriage is a non-issue on Navajoland,"
Shirley said in vetoing the measure Sunday. "So why
waste time and resources on it? We have more important
issues to address."
If members of the Navajo Nation wish to define
marriage or take a position for or against same-sex
unions, Shirley said he would support their decision
to do that through an initiative rather than a Tribal
The Tribal Council voted unanimously last month in
favor of the Dine Marriage Act of 2005. Dine is the
Navajos' name for themselves.
The act would have restricted a recognized union to a
relationship between a man and a woman and prohibited
plural marriages as well as any marriage between
parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren,
brothers and sisters and other close relatives.
There was no answer at the Tribal Council speaker's
office Sunday night.
Supporters have said the goal was to promote Navajo
family values and preserve marriage as a sacred union
between a man and a woman.
Shirley said in a prepared statement released on
Sunday that he strongly supports and encourages family
stability and the need for Navajo husbands and wives
to love and support each other and their children.
However, the proposed measure said nothing about
domestic violence, sexual assault and gangs on the
Navajo Nation. Problems Shirley said were rampant.
The law focused on a problem that doesn't exist and
would only generate disharmony and disunity among the
Navajo people, he said.
The measure also goes against the Navajo teaching of
nondiscrimination and doing no psychological or
physical harm to others, according to Shirley.
Other critics of the legislation had said its sponsor,
Delegate Larry Anderson of Fort Defiance, was
attempting to rewrite cultural history to parallel
conservative Christian backlash against gay rights
across the United States.
Same-sex marriages became a national issue last year,
starting Feb. 12 in San Francisco when Mayor Gavin
Newsom opened the city's wedding registry to gays
couples. The debate reached New Mexico later that
month when the Sandoval County clerk issued licenses
to about 60 same-sex couples, but the state attorney
general quickly settled the matter by advising that
the licenses were illegal.
Last August, the Cherokee National Tribal Council in
Oklahoma voted to clearly define marriage as between a
man and a woman.