Why Marriage Matters to Native Americans

Just as the United States debates whether or not to end the exclusion of same-sex couples and their families from marriage, Native American tribes are addressing the same issue.

Native American tribes are federally recognized sovereign nations—thus they can create their own policies around marriage for same-sex couples. Native American tribes have historically accepted LGBT/Two-Spirit same-sex relationships, and in 2009, the first tribe in the nation, the Coquille Tribe of Oregon, approved the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. Since then, several other tribes have extended marriage to same-sex couples to same-sex couples, with several proactively approving resolutions in favor of the freedom to marry and others newly realizing that their tribal code does not reference gender and thus, permits marriage between same-sex couples.

These Native American tribes have approved the freedom to marry:

Many Native American leaders have heralded the importance of the freedom to marry for committed LGBT/Two-Spirit couples, such as Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr., who received Equality Arizona’s Barry Goldwater Human Rights Award for speaking out against and vetoing the discriminatory Diné Marriage Act of 2005. Although six of the seven tribal jurisdictions currently exclude same-sex couples from marriage, organizations such as NativeOUT and the Diné Coalition for Cultural Preservation continue to work toward an end to these discriminatory measures that violate the traditional beliefs in "goodwill" and "respecting all kinship."

Last Updated June 24, 2015

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