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Navajo Nation celebrates landmark victory for LGBTQ+ Rights, Urges Tribal Leaders to do the Same


In a landmark victory for LGBTQ+ rights, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision on Monday to protect LGBTQ+ employees against workplace discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.


In a 6-3 ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch joining the four liberal justices in the majority, the highest court in the land found that a federal law prohibiting workplace discrimination — Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — should be applied to cases involving LGBTQ+ workers.


The question for the justices was whether that last prohibition — discrimination “because of sex”— applies to many millions of gay and transgender workers.


In a press release, Diné Equality founder, Alray Nelson said,

“This is a major victory for our community but it has limitations in how Sovereign Nations interpret the law for our Indigenous LGBTQ+ relatives living on tribal lands. This historic decision now urges tribal governments to repeal homophobic and transphobic laws that limit the rights of our Native American citizens.”

When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in 2015 in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges, the Navajo Nation did not act or repeal the discriminatory Diné Marriage Act.


”Today, marriage equality is void and prohibited on the largest Sovereign Nation in the United States. Same sex unions are not recognized, couples cannot file for a homesite lease, jointly adopt children, or make medical decisions for their spouse on tribal land. This must change in order to bring full LGBTQ+ equality for our family members across Indian Country.”

Diné LGBTQ+ rights advocate and Kayenta Council Delegate, Nathaniel Brown, shared,

“When speaking of kinship & relationship to each other, Navajo speaks of compassion & respect. Assaults are being perpetuated towards our LGBTQ community & it often goes unreported. Navajo leadership has not addressed this issue accordingly. These problems are real. It is now time that we treat our LGBTQ family members with respect & compassion. They are our relatives & Navajo law should reflect it.”

Delegate Brown is the sponsor of Legislation 0195-19 which directs the Navajo Nation government to officially lobby for the passage of the Equality Act in the U.S. Congress. Additional LGBTQ+ inclusive legislation will be considered this year by the 24th Navajo Nation Council.

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Diné teachings tell us that both sexes are important to the survival & perpetuation of our people. At one time, our people also acknowledged a third or multiple genders in our society— who are often called the nádleehí. The imposition of modern democracy has led to our loss of memory about the inclusion of women & our LGBTQ relatives in nation-building.

We are changing the narrative because our LGBTQ+ relatives have always been sacred.

© 2013 Coalition for Diné Equality. All Rights Reserved