Increasing the debate on modern-day implications for Navajo traditions, the Navajo Nation Council's June 3 override of the Navajo president's veto on a same-sex marriage ban means the law will go into effect on the Navajo Nation.
The override passed the council with a vote of 62 - 14, with 12 delegates abstaining. A vote of at least 59 was needed for the override to pass. The initial council vote, passing the legislation with a vote of 67 to 0, was held April 22. The Navajo president vetoed the legislation on May 1, which led to the override.
Appeal an option
The Dine' Coalition for Cultural Preservation, organized by Navajo gays, said the council's vote on the override, and passage of the Dine' Marriage Act of 2005, is more about politics and power than concern with Navajo people and Navajo families.
''Once again, with this override, we see the continued power struggle that is hurting our governmental system. The outrage of this result will only add to the growing cries for aggressive governmental reform in the next coming years,'' the coalition said in a statement released by Sherrick Roanhorse, Navajo.
Roanhorse said an appeal to the Navajo Supreme Court is an option for the future. The Dine' Marriage Act defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, prohibits plural marriage and prohibits marriage between family members.
The coalition thanked the 14 Navajo council delegates who voted against the override and President Joe Shirley Jr. for his earlier veto. When Shirley vetoed the legislation, he said same-sex marriage is a non-issue on the Navajo Nation.
Describing the marriage act as promoting discrimination, the coalition said: ''We believe in a society that is just and lives by the Navajo values of tolerance, humility and inclusiveness.
''We are disappointed that the council delegates who chose to stay with their original vote did not listen to their conscience. We can only speculate their vote was more about showing the president of the Navajo Nation that they are 'the governing body of the Navajo Nation,' rather than protecting the Navajo people and engaging in thoughtful debate.''
Earlier, Roanhorse and other Navajos opposed to the legislation said Navajos have long honored ''two-spirited ones.'' Navajo gays in Window Rock also expressed fear that the act would lead to more discrimination toward Navajo gays and result in more hate crimes, such as the beatings and murders that already occur in area bordertowns.
Fort Defiance Councilman Larry Anderson, sponsor of the legislation, told the council that the future and sovereignty of the Navajo Nation was the basis for the marriage act. Anderson said the debate is about tribal sovereignty based on Navajo clanship, as opposed to engaging in the debates of states. He said Navajo society and civilization in the modern area has become complex, but states cannot dictate laws to the Navajo Nation.
''The states and the federal government on this continent just recently began, but the Navajo social practices extend from the creation. Our clan system is the oldest social and traditional structure on Earth.''
Anderson said the Navajo marriage ceremony is based on the Navajo clan system admonition that individuals of the same clan should not marry. He said the clan system provides family unity.
''I share the same views as our medicine men: any marriage not based on our marriage ceremony and clan system will only destroy us as a nation. Likewise, any marriage not based on our marriage ceremony and clan system is not a basic family unit as we know it under Navajo tradition and culture.''
Anderson said the Dine' Marriage Act will have enforcement from Navajo family members, medicine people, religious heads and Navajo Nation government officials.
The Navajo Council is comprised of 88 delegates representing 110 chapters in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.