TOHATCHI, N.M. — Tradition reigns here on the Navajo reservation, where the words of elders are treated as gospel and many people still live or pray in circular dwellings called hogans.
The national debate over gay marriage, however, is prompting some Navajos to re-examine a 2005 tribal law called the Dine Marriage Act, which prohibits same-sex unions on the reservation. Among the tribal politicians who have said they are amenable to repealing the law is Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation, who has said he will go along with a repeal if the Navajo Nation Council votes in favor of it.
And at least one Navajo presidential aspirant — Joe Shirley Jr., a former president who is running again — favors legalizing same-sex marriage. “Our culture dictates acceptance,” Mr. Shirley, 67, said of gay Navajos in a slow, grandfatherly tone during an interview. “They are part of our family, they are our children, and we don’t need to be partial.”