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History, Perspectives and consequences of

Same Sex marriage

You can differ. but cant deny

Same-Sex Unions throughout Time

A History of Gay Marriage
Historians of same-sex marriage take great care to place the modern debate over the legality of
gay marriage into an historical framework. The debate has taken on a sharply political dimension
in recent years, a culmination of some 40 years of heightened tension surrounding the cultural
question. That question is not easily answered because it is complicated by societal and
individual interpretations of standards. The historical framework surrounding the debate
supports both sides, from claims based upon religious texts to interpretations of the U.S.
Constitution. Unfortunately, the debate has often not been civil, and those who are the subject of
the debate have suffered emotional and physical violence (and unequal protection) as their
societies have struggled to answer the question. While repression is not unique in the history of
gay rights and gay marriage, neither is the alternative. At times throughout history, same-sex
relationships have enjoyed relative freedom within their respective places.
Same-Sex Relationships in Early Civilization

Ancient evidence survives of kingdom-sanctioned, same-sex cohabitation, as in the tomb drawings of

Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep

Evidence exists that same-sex marriages were tolerated in parts of Mesopotamia and ancient
Egypt. Artifacts from Egypt, for example, show that same-sex relationships not only existed, but
the discovery of a pharaonic tomb for such a couple shows their union was recognized by the
kingdom. Meanwhile, accounts of the Israelites departure for Canaan include their

condemnation of Egyptian acceptance of same-sex practice. In actuality, same-sex marital

practices and rituals are less known in Egypt compared to Mesopotamia, where documents exist
for a variety of marital practices, including male lovers of kings and polyandry. None of the
recorded laws of Mesopotamia, including the Code of Hammurabi, contain restrictions against
same-sex unions despite the fact that marriages are otherwise well regulated (Eskridge).
Classical antiquity in the Western world is frequently cited for examples of same-sex love and
relationships, though separate concepts of homosexuality and heterosexuality did not exist in the
same way as today. Platos Symposium, for example, describes instances of homosexual
attraction and same-sex relationships in ancient Greece without condemnation. Some point to
examples of same-sex interaction in Greek artwork as further evidence of its equal status within
the society. Individual, higher status, however, was of critical importance to free expression of
Status enabled older men, beginning in their 20s and 30s to act as mentor to a younger male who
had not yet reached adulthood. The relationship consisted of a standardized courtship ritual and
the basic belief that male attraction to other men was typically considered to be a sign of
masculinity. Same-sex unions were known to have occurred in addition to opposite-sex
marriages, existing simultaneously as an educational union available between teacher and pupil,
for both men and women outside of their heterosexual arrangement. Such beliefs were not
universal in ancient Greece, however. Some states disapproved of the rituals and relationships
The main considerations in same-sex relationships in early history were often love, beauty, and
excellence of character rather than gender. There was also a cultural-religious basis for
homosexual practice. Greek mythology records same-sex exploits by gods as high ranking as
Zeus. And the epics of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey, contain poetic passages that suggested
homoerotic love to the educated hearer. But the culture underwent a transition during which
homosexual expressions of love went from overt to covert (Dynes).
Roman social customs are relatively well known, and same-sex unions existed as high in society
as among Roman emperors. Roman statesman Cicero also documented legal rights of an
individual within a same-sex marriage. Female same-sex unions seemed to have been less
common, but only because women enjoyed less freedom in their economic and social endeavors
Over time, Rome experienced a similar trajectory as Greece between the early republic and the
later empire, and negative attitude toward same-sex unions and non-procreative sexuality
increased with the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire (Pickett). By the fourth century,
anxiety toward obviously pervasive same-sex unions reached a peak when the state passed a law
promising punishment to anyone entering a same-sex marriage (Eskridge).
Western Religious Attitudes of Same-Sex Sexuality

Religious texts are widely interpreted to prohibit same-sex unions of any kind Biblical attitudes
toward homosexuality are often reduced to strict condemnation based upon passages interpreted
from the Old Testament Book of Genesis, though some scholars suggest that the description of
same-sex relationships as unnatural only means out of the ordinary and not immoral
(Pickett). Leviticus chapters 18 and 20, however, seems to be clearer in its punishment of
homosexual men (along with condemnation of adulterous women, incest, and the ritual sacrifice
of children). Ultimately, the influence of a Christian focus on procreation as central to marriage
became apparent in Roman law during the later empire.

Sexuality, in other words, and not just homosexuality came under attack by a growing religious
belief that intercourse was meant only for the production of children. Ultimately, excessive
sexual indulgence of any kind both inside and outside the bonds of marriage was prohibited by
Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, with the most sever condemnation saved for homosexuality,
particularly of men (Ishay).
Same-Sex Unions throughout Time and Place
Eastern religions varied in their attitude toward homosexuality, though they were frequently
much more neutral than their Western counterparts. Less specific to same-sex marriage, many of
the texts make a statement as to their position on homosexual behavior.
The sacred texts in the Hindu tradition, the Vedas, did not restrict homosexuality, but rather
viewed it as a perversion. Mixed-race relationships were considerably more offensive in the
early tradition. Japanese Buddhism records the most tolerant attitude toward homosexuality, in
essence praising it for its mystery (Ishay). Today, there are no religious or political limitations on
homosexual behavior in Japan. Sexuality remains a private matter among consenting adults, but
there is not yet legal recognition of homosexual unions (McLelland).
Later Buddhist texts in Asiaincluding Tibet, China, and the Indian subcontinentwere
likewise neutral on the subject. Today, romantic love between same-sex couples remains largely
opposed to the political norm in modern-day India, but Hindu tradition provides for some
freedom for praiseworthy and devoted same-sex unions within communities, where the elders
officially decide what constitutes an acceptable marriage. Ultimately, the Indian state does not
provide the same array of privileges to married couples as some Western governments, so many
such marriages simply are not reported and remain sanctioned within their own community.
Without such local sanctions, same-sex couples are typically not free to marry in India (Vanita).
Confucianism strongly emphasized the importance of family and lineage, but did not punish
homosexuality as severely as it did adultery. As long as one fulfilled familial and social
obligations . . . Confucians did not single out homosexual behavior for special rebuke (Ishay).

On the contrary, there existed occasions for same-sex bonds or contracts for both women and
men. Though traditional historical sources in China tended to not cover practices that deviated
from standard social forms, some researchers have found evidence of institutionalized male
homosexuality and companionate unions in stories and plays that seem representative of a larger
subculture (Sullivan).
European conquest and colonization provides some of the best insight to marital and sexual
practices of indigenous peoples across the globe. Examples of same-sex behavior, including
transgenerational same-sex unions, have emerged everywhere from New Guinea to Polynesia
(and were also prevalent in feudal Japan). The most numerous early accounts of same-sex,
transgendered unions exist from European encounters with indigenous people in both North and
South America.
The originally derogatory term berdache described transgendered two-spirit people prevalent
in most of the tribes. Individuals, both male and female, assumed characteristics and roles of the
opposite gender and lived out those roles within their tribes. These relationships are easily
perceived as homosexual by outside observers, but it is clear that the Western delineations of
heterosexuality and homosexuality would not have been understood within these societies.
Nevertheless, these same-sex marriages had equal cultural and legal recognition within their
communities and offered special advantages for the couples, particularly for women berdaches
(Rupp, Eskridge).
Similar berdaches and same-sex-style marriages were found among cultures in Africa, and also
included an arrangement known as female husbands. Often barren, these women assumed the
cultural roles of men, including having the same rights as menwhich included seeking
damages if her wife should have relations outside of their union without her consent. The
berdache tradition of same-sex marriage, in various forms, is also well documented throughout
Asia, from eunuchs in China to hijras in India (Eskridge).
Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality in Pre-Modern West

The rise of
Christianity and dominance of the church in Medieval Europe was largely detrimental for samesex relationships. There is some evidence that same-sex relationships enjoyed relative freedom
through the early Middle Ages. European secular law had few recorded limitations on same-sex
behavior, and there is even evidence in the literature of the clergy of compassion for
At various times in history, even church-sanctioned same-sex marriages have been conducted

homosexuality, notably within the clergy itself (Pickett).

The church seemed to be tolerant of same-sex unions in practice and made some provisions for
ceremonies commemorating the companionate brotherhood. John Boswells Christianity, Social
Tolerance, and Homosexuality documents homosexual marriages performed by gay clerics
dating back to the fourth century. On the other hand, the church seemed obligated to be critical
of non-procreative unions, and questions of translation and interpretation surround some of the
documents and ceremonies from the early Middle Ages (Sullivan).
It was in the thirteenth century, however, that the first laws against sodomy emerged and began
to be enforced. Through the next several centuries in the West, all manner of behavior deemed
deviant or unnatural began to be condemned, causing a shift from the earlier belief that same-sex
unions were problematic because they were interpreted as unnatural to the belief that same-sex
unions were a serious threat to societyand, like heretics, witches, and Jews, practitioners of
such unions were violently repelled. Moreover, by the nineteenth century, heterosexuality
became understood as the standard sexual orientation. Deviations to the norm became
understood as diseases which, if not treated, should be suppressed. As a result, same-sex
marriage was largely prohibited throughout the West. Meanwhile, missionaries from Western
churches forcibly converted indigenous practices (Eskridge). The peak of discrimination came
under the Nazi regime, where homosexuals were among the many victims classified as of an
inferior race (Ishay).
Etymology of Homosexuality and Gay Marriage
A major example of the kind of theory being developed on the European continent in the
nineteenth century came from Austrian-born Hungarian psychologist Karl Benkert (later
changed to Karoly Maria Kertbeny). Kertbeny is credited with the coining of the term
homosexuality, but more importantly suggested the belief that homosexuality is inborn and
one of four natural sexual divisions. Because homosexuality is natural, he posited, laws against it
are fundamental violations of human rights. Of course, other researchers persisted in believing
that homosexuality was a disease (having a very different understanding of natural law) and,
as a result, continued to pursue a cure while further embedding the argument against
homosexuality in Western science and literature. In the twentieth century, the cure included
electro-shock therapy.
The term homosexuality is often used in explaining a persons sexual orientation, with the
intent to challenge the belief in the moral legitimacy of heterosexuality. A mid-century survey of
nearly 200 societies around the world showed more than two-thirds generally accepted same-sex
relationships, and that the lines between heterosexuality and homosexuality are fluid
(Homosexuality). Many of those societies permitted same-sex union or marriage to a varying
While gay has been in the English language since about the thirteenth century, the word took
on sexual connotations by the seventeenth century. Its original connotation of lively and merry
could be applied to sexual behavior, though not to homosexual behavior until the early twentieth

century. Today it is sometimes used only with respect to homosexual men and not in the
derogatory way as it once was (Gay).
In the public arena, the terminology has important significance, particularly in the current
American debate, which persists in relegating gay relationships to a second-class, unnatural
Alternatively, recognition of domestic partnerships, or unions of same-sexed individuals, to
allow the couple access to the same cultural benefits as different-sexed partners has begun to
take hold in some parts of the United States. The idea has precedent in Scandinavia dating to as
far back as 1989, when Denmark became the first country to allow legally sanctioned same-sex
unions, coining the term registered partnership. Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and
Belgium followed, with the Netherlands notably being the first to grant equal status of same-sex
marriages to opposite-sex marriages. By 2005, Spain, France, Germany, and Canada would
follow, to varying degrees of recognition.
The Stonewall Riots
As the civil rights movement rocked America in the middle of the twentieth century, the gay and
lesbian rights movement also got its start. It was, however, a series of reactionary riots at the
New York Stonewall Inn in 1969 that truly first defined the modern gay rights movement. The
gay patrons of the bar at the inn fought back routine police raids, officially launching the gradual
emergence of a national gay identity wherein individuals came out of the closet and claimed
[their] identity in great numbers (Eskridge). From that emerging identity, couples formed
unions which they considered to be marriages, but it would be decades before any state would
legally recognize them because of the pervasive (usually Judeo-Christian) belief of an inherent
legitimacy of the natural union of man and woman for its procreative power.
Studies of openly gay marriages during the Sixties and Seventies showed just as much
longevity and stability among same-sex couples as their heterosexual counterparts, except samesex couples were terminally shackled by social prejudice, legal disadvantages, and economic
discrimination (Eskridge). The movement has evolved from seeking simple toleration of samesex unions to the hope for legal recognition.
Federalism and the Defense of Marriage

The Defense of Marriage Act and prohibition of same-sex marriage are designed to protect traditional marriage

Many arguments have emerged against same-sex marriage in recent

years, especially since individual states in America have begun sanctioning the unions. That a
couple be able to produce children, let alone properly raise them, are not preconditions for
but are also seen as violations of human rights

marriage in the United States. Many religions, however, believe procreation to be central to
human existence and that same-sex marriage represents a challenge to the interests and sanctity
of heterosexual marriage. The question of gay marriage has been bitterly divisive in the political
arena of many nations, but perhaps none more so than the United States.
In America, interpretations of a constitutional basis for equal access have lent support to the gay
marriage movement. Some simply assert the role of the Supreme Court to ensure states
legislation about marriage comply with the U.S. Constitution, which has provisions for rights to
privacy and equal protection. Those provisions suggest marital discrimination to be
unconstitutional. However, federalism in the U.S. reserves notions of family law for the states to
determine, and the marriage laws of individual states need not be recognized by other states.
That provision emerged from the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 and, for the purpose of the
law (including taxes, social security, immigration, and military benefits), defined marriage as a
union of a man and a woman.
By that same year, a majority of states passed laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. But same-sex
couples targeted a clause of Vermonts constitution that guaranteed equal benefits and rights to
all its citizens. The common benefits clause would either have to be stricken from the
constitution, a controversial and time-consuming move, or the state would have to reach a
compromise. Months of intense debate brought about civil unions, a term which caught fire in
the United States. The state would recognize the unions for access to benefits but other states
would not have to recognize them (
Other states and jurisdictions have begun to find room in their laws for same-sex couples to
access the rights and benefits afforded their opposite-sex counterparts. Massachusetts, Iowa and,
most notably, California have received the most attention, though several other states have had
propositions hit their ballots and legislation passed in accordance with equal protection in their
Proposition 8
But the fierce debate over same-sex marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships
continues, and some states did not hesitate to fully amend their constitution to prohibit all forms
of unions involving same-sex couples. Californias Proposition 8 received intense media
coverage because it illuminated a sharply divided publicand sharply divided interpretations of
natural human rights. The conflict erupted in the wake of San Franciscos decision to begin
issuing same-sex marriage licenses in 2004. Over 4,000 were granted in one month before the
California Supreme Court halted the efforts of the city. By 2008, opponents of same-sex
marriages managed to get an initiative to ballot to prohibit same-sex marriages, though existing
domestic partnerships (who enjoyed many fewer privileges) would not be nullified. Voters
passed the proposition and it was upheld by the highest state court before a federal court
challenged it (
Individual people, cities, states, and nations are continuing to grapple with the challenge of gay
marriage given the divided opinion of their lawmakers and their constituents. Because opinions

are rooted in millennia-old interpretations of social mores and pervasive beliefs in conceptions
about what is normal, gay marriage remains a way of life on the outside looking in.
-- Posted February 4, 2011
Andersson, Gunnar, et al. The Demographics of Same-Sex Marriages in Norway and Sweden.
Demography. Vol. 43.1 (February 2006): 79-98.
The Battle Over Same-Sex Marriage. May 26 2009. Accessed: December 28, 2010.
Dynes, Wayne R. and Stephen Donaldson. 1992. Homosexuality in the Ancient World. New
York, NY: Garland.
Eskridge, William N., Jr. Symposium on Sexual Orientation and the Law. Virginia Law
Review. Vol 79.7 (October 1993): 1419-1513.
gay. Accessed: December 29, 2010.
Greenburg, Gary. Gay by Choice? The Science of Sexual Identity. Mother Jones. August 26,
2007. Accessed: December 19, 2010.
homosexuality. Accessed: December 29, 2010.
Homosexuality. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Fall 2008). Accessed: December 20,
Ishay, Micheline R. 2004. The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the
Globalization Era. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
McLelland, Mark. Is There a Japanese Gay Identity? Culture, Health & Sexuality. Vol 2.4
(October-December 2000): 459-472.
Rupp, Leila J. Toward a Global History of Same-Sex Sexuality. Journal of the History of
Sexuality. Vol 10.2 (April 2001): 287-302.
Sullivan, Andrew. 1997. Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
Vanita, Ruth. Wedding of Two Souls: Same-Sex Marriage and Hindu Traditions. Journal of
Feminist Studies in Religion. Vol 20.2 (Fall 2004): 119-135.
Copyright 2007-2015 Random |

Same-Sex Marriage Debate Has Roots Going

Back Centuries
by Stephanie Pappas, Live Science Contributor | August 15, 2010 02:54am

Same-sex marriage; gay men giving their wedding vows. Credit. Dreamstime.

In the late 1700s, something disturbing happened to marriage in Western societies: It began to
change. Young people had revolutionary new ideas about the institution and what it meant to
"People were terrified," said Stephanie Coontz, a historian at The Evergreen State College in
Washington and author of "Marriage, A History" (Viking Adult, 2005). "Social conservatives of
the day said, 'Oh my gosh, you're going to have the wrong people getting married.'"

The radical idea that had everyone so worried? The notion that people should marry for love,
rather than for individual power, group survival, or any of a host of other historic reasons to
bond. [Read: Majority in US Back Same-Sex Marriage, Poll Finds]
Marriage survived, and so did society. But the fight over marriage continues, most recently with
the judicial decision in California that ruled Proposition 8, a state ban on gay marriage,
unconstitutional. On Thursday, Federal Judge Vaughn Walker lifted the stay on his earlier ruling,
clearing the way for same-sex marriages in California to go forward beginning Aug. 18, pending
a reversal by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The case is likely on its way to the Supreme Court, but this latest victory for advocates of
marriage rights for gay couples may be a natural next step in the long and emotional evolution of
marriage, say historians. The ruling has already sparked anger in opponents of gay marriage, an
anger that may be linked with fear of social change in general.
"I think a lot of the opposition comes from people who are looking at all these changes, and they
are disruptive, unsettling changes," Coontz said. "People are frightened by the idea that there are
no strict roles. Same-sex marriage has become a stand-in for all the other things that make
them anxious about contemporary marriage."
What is traditional?
Marriage has never been quite as simple as one man, one woman and a desire to procreate.
Across cultures, family structure varies drastically. Early Christians in the Middle East and
Europe favored monogamy without divorce. Some Native American tribes practiced polygamy;
others, monogamy with the option to dissolve the union. In some African and Asian societies,
Coontz said, same-sex marriages, though not seen as sexual, were permitted if one of the partners
took on the social role of the opposite gender.
Inuit people in the Arctic formed co-marriages in which two husband-wife couples could trade
partners, an arrangement that fostered peace between clans. In some South American tribes, a
pregnant woman could take lovers, all of whom were considered responsible for her child.
According to "Cultures of Multiple Fathers: The Theory and Practice of Partible Paternity in
Lowland South America"(University of Florida Press, 2002), 80 percent of children with
multiple "fathers" survived to adulthood, compared with 64 percent of kids with just one dad.
Increasing globalization has erased many of these traditions, but some persist. In America,
Mormon splinter groups practice polygamy. In Hui'an China up until the 1990s, many married
women lived with their parents until the birth of their first child. And in the Lahaul Valley of
India, women practiced polyandry until the most recent generation, marrying not just one man,
but all of his brothers as well. The tradition kept small land holdings in the hands of one family
and prevented overpopulation in the remote valley.
The Western Ideal

For much of human history, marriage was a way to spread resources between families, Coontz
said. When societies develop into the haves and the have-nots, marriage usually changes,
becoming a way to hold on to power and land thus the predilection toward incest in royal
families across the globe.
But the first drastic redefinition of marriage in the Western world came from early Christians,
Coontz said. At the time, a man could divorce his wife if she failed to bear children. Early
Christians disavowed the practice. God had joined the couple together, they said, and a lack of
offspring was no excuse to dissolve that bond.
This was "unprecedented," Coontz said. "It was actually Christianity that first took the position
that the validity of marriage did not depend on the ability to reproduce."
[5 Myths About Gay People Debunked]
It took hundreds of years for the Church to enforce this pronouncement, and even then, local
parishes would often find reasons to let divorce slide. As it stood, the early Christians weren't
sold on marriage, anyway. Saint Paul famously said that celibacy was the best path, but
grudgingly added, according to the King James Version of the Bible, "If they cannot contain, let
them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn."
Still, marriage was not a matter of love. Too much affection in a marriage was seen as a
distraction from God. In the Middle Ages, people went so far as to argue that love in marriage
was impossible. The only way to true romance, they said, was adultery.
First comes love
The disconnect between love and marriage wouldn't change until the late 1700s, when
Enlightenment thinkers argued that the older generation had no business telling the younger
generation who to marry. From there, things snowballed relatively rapidly: In the early 1900s,
sexual satisfaction became a criterion for marriage. Then, in the 1960s and 1970s, people began
to question the laws that made men the legal overlords of their wives. Suddenly, the idea that
marriage was a partnership between two people with different gender roles began to dissolve.
"My argument would be that it was heterosexuals who revolutionized marriage to the point
where gays and lesbians began to say, 'Oh, this applies to us now,'" Coontz said. "First love, then
sexual attraction, and then, finally and not until the 1970s, the idea that marriage could be
With every change comes controversy, Coontz said. People sniffed at the idea of marrying for
love, frowned upon the sexually liberated flappers of the 1920s, and fought against the Women's
Liberation movement of the 1970s.
Emotion and ideology

Some of those ideological debates still echo in today's debate over same-sex marriage, but
research shows that there is no scientific reason to deny marriage rights to gays, said Sharon
Rotosky, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky. A June 2008 study, published in the
journal Pediatrics, found that children with lesbian parents actually did better on many measures
than children of straight parents. Other studies have shown very similar outcomes between kids
with gay parents and kids with straight parents.
Rotosky has found that even putting marriage rights up for debate harms gay and lesbian
individuals. In a 2006 study, she and her colleagues surveyed people living in U.S. states with
anti-gay-marriage amendments on the ballot and compared the results with states without such
an amendment.
"We found that LGB [lesbian, gay and bisexual] people who lived and stayed where there was an
amendment on the ballot were more stressed and saw more negative messages in the media,"
Rotosky said. "Marriage amendments do increase stress and do increase depressive symptoms."
The Proposition 8 case could be decided by the Supreme Court within two years, which could
mean more stress ahead for gay and lesbian couples. But, said Rotosky, the outcome could be
worth it.
"[Extending marriage rights] wouldn't end discrimination," she said. "But it would help relieve
the chronic form of stress that couples have to endure every day."

Same-Sex Marriage in History: What the

Supreme Court Missed
by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | May 05, 2015 06:25am

A bust of Emperor Nero, who married a man, according to historians.

Credit: Pete Klimek |

Several U.S. Supreme Court Justices asked for a history lesson on same-sex marriage last week,
but the answers they got were far from complete, experts say.
Three of the nine justices asked for a legal precedence of same-sex marriage, when they listened
on April 28 to arguments on whether the institution should be, in essence, legal and recognized
countrywide. Chief Justice John Roberts raised the question of precedence, saying, "Every
definition that I looked up, prior to about a dozen years ago, defined marriage as unity between a
man and a woman as husband and wife," according to court transcripts.
Justice Samuel Alito added, "as far as I'm aware, until the end of the 20th century, there was
never a nation or a culture that recognized marriage between two people of the same sex." He
later added, "There have been cultures that did not frown on homosexuality," such as ancient
Greece, but they still didn't accept gay marriage, as far as he knew. [10 Milestones in Gay Rights
During an exchange with Mary Bonauto, one of the lawyers arguing for the plaintiffs, who are in
favor of same-sex marriage, Justice Antonin Scalia said, "But I don't know of any do you
know of any society, prior to the Netherlands in 2001, that permitted same-sex marriage?"
Bonauto answered that, as a legal matter, she did not.
In fact, same-sex marriage has happened throughout the ages, although some cultures might view
it through a different lens, experts told Live Science.
Here's a look at a few of these unions from cultures around the world, including ancient Rome,
Native American people in the American Plains and pre-colonial Africa.
Same-sex precedence
Ancient Romans, or at least Roman men with power and wealth, could marry same-sex partners,
said Elizabeth Abbott, author of "A History of Marriage" (Seven Stories Press, 2011).
Emperor Nero (ruled A.D. 54 to A.D. 68) castrated a boy named Sporus to make him womanlike,
and then married him in a traditional ceremony, which included a bridal veil and a dowry,
according to the Roman historian and biographer Suetonius (circa A.D. 69).
Emperor Elagabalus (ruled A.D. 218 to A.D. 222) married Zoticus, a famous male athlete, and
referred to his slave, a man named Hierocles, as his husband, Abbott said.
There are also texts referring to lesbian relationships, but not marriages, in ancient Rome, Abbott
said. Perhaps these women did not have enough power or influence to actually marry, she said.

"Wealthy, powerful men in ancient Rome could do it, and find ways of doing it because they
were rich and powerful," Abbott told Live Science. However, it doesn't appear that same-sex
marriage was widespread in ancient Rome.
"In other words, it was a thought people had," Abbott said. "But there were very few people who
were actually able to do it."
In another instance, some Native American peoples, such as the Crow, participated in same-sex
marriages, although their culture likely viewed it another way, said Helen Boyd, a lecturer of
gender studies at Lawrence University in Wisconsin.
Some Native American societies accepted the idea that some people have "two spirits" (the term
"berdache" is also used, but some people consider it offensive). People with two spirits had both
maleness and femaleness inside of them, and could marry someone who was the same biological
sex, Boyd said. [10 Wedding Traditions from Around the World]
For instance, a biological male with two spirits could live as a woman and marry a man, Boyd
Woman-woman marriages
Across the world, there were societies in pre-colonial Africa that permitted women to marry
other women. These marriages typically helped widowed women who didn't want to remarry a
man or return to their family or their husband's family after the husband's death, according to a
2009 research article published in the journal Global South by Marc Epprecht, the professor and
head of global development studies at Queens University in Canada.
Instead, the widow could pay a bride price and perform other rituals needed to marry another
woman, Epprecht said.
The widow would then act as the husband in the relationship, and preserve her inheritance and
family lineage, Epprecht said. Another man could impregnate the widow's wife, but he would
have no claims on the child. Instead, the woman-woman duo would raise the child, Epprecht
"A central thing in African political and social thought is belonging to someone," said Thomas
McClendon, a professor of history at Southwestern University in Texas. "You're someone's
daughter or son, and you eventually become an ancestor when you die.
"It's important to have descendants," McClendon said. "This is a way in which women could
achieve that status even if they didn't have a husband."
There are other examples of same-sex marriage: The Muxe of southern Mexico were biological
males who lived as women and were allowed to marry men; the Fa'afafine of Samoa have a
similar setup, as do the Hijra in India and Pakistan, and the Kathoey in Thailand, Boyd said.

"Westerners tend to put these people in the 'gay' box, so their marriages are to our eyes
same-sex marriages, even though they are, more specifically, marriages between two differently
gendered people," Boyd said.
There have always been gay people, and they've often married, "just not to each other," Abbott
"In my marriage book, I talk about the terrible, the dire consequences of forcing people to marry
against their instincts, their orientation," Abbott said. "Historically, you had lots of unhappy
marriages, probably for that reason."
Follow Laura Geggel on Twitter @LauraGeggel. Follow Live Science @livescience,
Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

History of Same Sex Marriage

History of Same Sex Marriages

Historical Outline It is estimated that 250 million people (or 4% of the world population) live in
areas that recognise same-sex marriage.
Gay men seem to have frequently married one another throughout history. In fact, in some
societies marriages between gay men were officially recognized by the state, as in ancient
Sparta, and on the Dorian island of Thera.
Much later, in 2nd century Rome, conjugal contracts between men of about the same age were
ridiculed but legally binding. Such marriages were blessed by pagan religions, particularly sects
of the Mother Goddess Cybele (imported from Asia Minor).
Many ancient writers, such as Strabo and Athenaeus, wrote that the Gauls or Celts commonly
practised homosexuality.
Aristotle wrote that the Celts "openly held in honor passionate friendship (synousia) between

Diodorus Siculus wrote that "Although the Gauls have lovely women, they scarcely pay
attention to them, but strangely crave male embraces (arrenon epiplokas).
Bardaisan of Edessa wrote that "In the countries of the north in the lands of the Germans and
those of their neighbors, handsome [noble] young men assume the role of wives [women]
towards other men, and they celebrate marriage feasts."
Early 18th century London, gay men also got married, but without legal sanction. In the 1720s
there were about 40 "molly houses" in central London, disorderly pubs or coffee houses where
gay men (called "mollies"). Many of these gay clubs had a "Marrying Room" or "Chapel"Molly
marriages didn't have the blessing of any church until the 1810s, when Rev John Church
officiated as the "Chaplain" at male gay marriages at The Swan in Vere Street.
Gay marriages among the American Indians, particularly the Sioux and the Cheyenne. In most
such marriages one of the two men was called a berdache. One of the more famous berdaches
was Yellow Head of the Cheyenne, who became the third wife of Chief Wagetote after being
rejected by the white mountaineer John Tanner.
Rictor Norton, "Taking a 'Husband': A History of Gay Marriage", Gay History and Literature,
21 February 2004, amended 3 February 2006, updated 13 June 2008 .

Ancient History
Various types of same-sex marriages have existed, ranging from informal, unsanctioned
relationships to highly ritualized unions.
In the southern Chinese province of Fujian, through the Ming dynasty period, females would
bind themselves in contracts to younger females in elaborate ceremonies. Males also entered
similar arrangements. This type of arrangement was also similar in ancient European history.
An example of egalitarian male domestic partnership from the early Zhou Dynasty period of
China is recorded in the story of Pan Zhang & Wang Zhongxian. While the relationship was
clearly approved by the wider community, and was compared to heterosexual marriage, it did not
involve a religious ceremony binding the couple.
The first historical mention of the performance of same-sex marriages occurred during the early
Roman Empire. For instance,

Emperor Nero is reported to have engaged in a marriage ceremony with

one of his male slaves.

Emperor Elagabalus "married" a Carian slave named Hierocles.

It should be noted, however, that conubium existed only between a civis Romanus and a civis
Romana (that is, between a male Roman citizen and a female Roman citizen), so that a so-called
marriage between two Roman males (or with a slave) would have no legal standing in Roman
law (apart, presumably, from the arbitrary will of the emperor in the two aforementioned cases).
Furthermore, "matrimonium is an institution involving a mother, mater.
The idea implicit in the word is that a man takes a woman in marriage, in matrimonium ducere,
so that he may have children by her." Still, the lack of legal validity notwithstanding, there is a
consensus among modern historians that same-sex relationships existed in ancient Rome, but
the exact frequency and nature of "same-sex unions" during that period is obscure.
In 342 AD Christian emperors Constantius II and Constans issued a law in the Theodosian Code
(C. Th. 9.7.3) prohibiting same-sex marriage in Rome and ordering execution for those so
The first documented same-sex marriage was between the two men Pedro Daz and Muo
Vandilaz in the Galician municipality of Rairiz de Veiga in Spain on April 16, 1061. They were
married by a priest at a small chapel. The historic documents about the church wedding were
found at Monastery of San Salvador de Celanova.
Modern Times

In 2001, the Netherlands became the first nation in the world to grant same-sex marriages.
Same-sex marriages are also granted and mutually recognized by Belgium (2003), Spain (2005),
Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland
(2010) and Argentina (2010).
In Mexico same sex marriage is recognized in all 31 states but only performed in Mexico City.
In Nepal, their recognition has been judicially mandated but not yet legislated.
Non Traditional Parenting

Scientific research has been consistent in showing that lesbian and gay parents are as fit and
capable as heterosexual parents, and their children are as psychologically healthy and welladjusted as children reared by heterosexual parents. According to scientific literature reviews,
there is no evidence to the contrary.
What is traditional Marriage?

Marriage has never been quite as simple as one man, one woman and a desire to procreate.
Across cultures, family structure varies drastically.

Early Christians in the Middle East and Europe favored monogamy without divorce.
Some Native American tribes practiced polygamy; others, monogamy with the option to
dissolve the union.
In some African and Asian societies, Coontz said, same-sex marriages, though not seen as
sexual, were permitted if one of the partners took on the social role of the opposite gender.
Inuit people in the Arctic formed co-marriages in which two husband-wife couples could trade
partners, an arrangement that fostered peace between clans.
In some South American tribes, a pregnant woman could take lovers, all of whom were
considered responsible for her child. According to "Cultures of Multiple Fathers: The Theory and
Practice of Partible Paternity in Lowland South America" (University of Florida Press, 2002), 80
percent of children with multiple "fathers" survived to adulthood, compared with 64 percent of
kids with just one dad.
Mormon splinter groups practice polygamy.
In Hui'an China up until the 1990s, many married women lived with their parents until the birth
of their first child.
And in the Lahaul Valley of India, women practiced polyandry until the most recent generation,
marrying not just one man, but all of his brothers as well. The tradition kept small land holdings
in the hands of one family and prevented overpopulation in the remote valley. The Western Ideal
But the first drastic redefinition of marriage in the Western world came from early Christians,
Coontz said. At the time, a man could divorce his wife if she failed to bear children. Early
Christians disavowed the practice. God had joined the couple together, they said, and a lack of
offspring was no excuse to dissolve that bond. This was "unprecedented," Coontz said. "It was
actually Christianity that first took the position that the validity of marriage did not
depend on the ability to reproduce."
It took hundreds of years for the Church to enforce this pronouncement, and even then, local
parishes would often find reasons to let divorce slide. As it stood, the early Christians weren't
sold on marriage, anyway.
Saint Paul famously said that celibacy was the best path, but grudgingly added, according to the
King James Version of the Bible, "If they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry
than to burn."

Still, marriage was not a matter of love. Too much affection in a marriage was seen as a
distraction from God.
In the Middle Ages, people went so far as to argue that love in marriage was impossible. The
only way to true romance, they said, was adultery.
Love in Marriage

The disconnect between love and marriage wouldn't change until the late 1700s, when
Enlightenment thinkers argued that the older generation had no business telling the younger
generation who to marry.
From there, things snowballed relatively rapidly: In the early 1900s, sexual satisfaction became a
criterion for marriage. Then, in the 1960s and 1970s, people began to question the laws that
made men the legal overlords of their wives. Suddenly, the idea that marriage was a partnership
between two people with different gender roles began to dissolve.
"My argument would be that it was heterosexuals who revolutionized marriage to the point
where gays and lesbians began to say, 'Oh, this applies to us now,'" Coontz said. "First love,
then sexual attraction, and then, finally and not until the 1970s, the idea that marriage could be
With every change comes controversy, Coontz said. People sniffed at the idea of marrying for
love, frowned upon the sexually liberated flappers of the 1920s, and fought against the Women's
Liberation movement of the 1970s. Emotion and ideology
Some of those ideological debates still echo in today's debate over same-sex marriage, but
research shows that there is no scientific reason to deny marriage rights to gays, said Sharon
Rotosky, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky.
A June 2008 study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that children with lesbian parents
actually did better on many measures than children of straight parents. Other studies have shown
very similar outcomes between kids with gay parents and kids with straight parents.
The Great Queers of History
Compiled by Rictor Norton

Part 1: Born before 1800

Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep (fl. 2450 BC) Egyptian overseers of

manicurists in the royal palace

Buried in joint tomb in Saqqara provided by Pharaoh Niusere, wall
paintings depict them in intimate embrace, describe them as "Joined in
life and joined in death."

Niankhkhnum & Khnumhotep

David (10th cent. BC) 2nd King of Israel (reign. c.1010-971/961 BC)
Slayer of Goliath, musician and military leader. Famous for his friendship
with Jonathan (son of King Saul), whose early death he lamented: "Thy
love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love for women."

David & Jonathan

Sappho of Lesbos (c.620-c.560 BC) Greek poet

The first writer of lyric poetry, which survives only in fragments. Founded
a school for girls, to whom she wrote romantic love poems. Her
birthplace gave rise to "Lesbian" as an erotic term. Plato called her "The
Tenth Muse."

Harmodius and Aristogiton (6th cent. BC) Greek political figures
Lovers famous for overthrowing the tyrant Hipparchus in 527 BCE,
thereby inaugurating Athenian democracy. Celebrated for their mutual
devotion and love of liberty. Many statues of the pair survive.

Harmodius & Aristogiton

Socrates (469-399 BC) Greek philosopher
Practiced educational method using analytical cross-examination,
emphasizing self-knowledge and rejection of received opinion. Dialogues
with his pupils recorded by Plato. Sentenced to death for "corrupting" the
youth of Athens.

Plato (c.427-347 BC) Greek philosopher
Key figure in Western philosophy, founder of the Academy in Athens,
pupil of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle. Dialogues The Symposium and
Phaedrus celebrated the spiritual love of youths, but tolerated

backsliding. Love poems to Aster.

Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) King of Macedon
Conquered most of Greece, Persia, Asia Minor, India & Egypt (founded
the city of Alexandria), transmitted Hellenic values across the civilized
world. Mourned the death of his lover Hephaestian with extravagant
funeral rites.

Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro) (70-19 BC) Roman poet
Chief writer of classical Latin poetry. Epic The Aeneid glorifies the
legendary founder of Rome. Idealized pastoral Eclogues celebrate
unrequited love of the shepherd Corydon for the beautiful Alexis.

Dong Xian (1st cent. BC) Chinese favorite
Powerful male concubine of Emperor Ai (r. 6 BC-AD 1), who one day cut
off his sleeve rather than wake up Dong Xian, who lay sleeping across it,
giving rise to "the passion of the cut sleeve" as the Chinese term for gay


Hadrian (Publius Aelius Hadrianus) (AD 76-138) Roman emperor

Patron of art, innovative architect (the Pantheon; his villa at Tivoli), under
whose enlightened reforms the empire flourished. Deified his lover
Antinous, icon of male beauty, who mysteriously drowned in the Nile.

Abu Nuwas (c.757-c.814) Arab poet
Master of witty, erotic love poetry (ghazal), celebrating wine, beautiful
boys and song. Famed for his mockery of taboos as the court jester in
Baghdad: "Away with hypocrisy ... I want to enjoy everything in broad

Abu Nuwas & friend

St Anselm (1033/4-1109) Italian-French-British prelate and scholastic
Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093. Though committed to celibacy,
wrote romantic love letters to former companions in Benedictine
monastery of Bec in Normandy, indicating yearning and frustrated desire.

St Anselm
St Aelred of Rievaulx (c.1110-1167) English monk
Born Northumbria, educated in the court of King David of Scotland,
entered Cistercian monastery of Rievaulx (became abbot 1147).
Celebrates intimate friendship in Speculum Caritatis & De Spirituali
Amicitia: "God is friendship."

St Aelred
Hafiz (Mohammad Shams Od-Din Hafiz) (c.1319-c.1389) Persian poet
Dubbed Sugar-Lips for his sensuous lyrics, many in praise of rough
trade. Regarded as a Sufi mystic, but preferred taverns to mosques. His
tomb in Shiraz (southern Iran) is a place of pilgrimage.


Donatello (c.1386-1466) Italian sculptor

Founder of modern sculpture (i.e. in the round), reviver of classical

antiquity as in his expressive and homoerotic bronze statue of David (a
key marker of the birth of the Renaissance) and marble St George.

Donatello's David
Mehmet II, the Conqueror (c.1430-1481) Sultan of Turkey
Captured Constantinople in 1453 (renamed Istanbul), defeated the
Byzantime Empire and founded the Ottoman Empire (incl. Greece,
Serbia, Albania). Captured Christian youths were placed in his harem.
Patron of learning.

Mehmet II
Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) Italian humanist, philosopher
Reconciled Classical and Christian ideals in Neoplatonism. Revived the
Platonic Academy and coined the term "platonic love." Wrote
Commentary on the Symposium and the first trans. of Phaedrus for his
protg Giovanni Cavalcanti.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Italian painter, scientist, inventor
Renaissance "universal genius", studied art, anatomy, aeronautics,
architecture, engineering, hydro-dynamics. Mona Lisa and The Last
Supper have come to symbolize the essence of art. Imprisoned for

Michelangelo (Buonarroti) (1475-1564) Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet
Portrayed heroic male nudes in sculpture, esp. David, Dying Slave,
Medici tombs, and frescos The Last Judgment & Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Designs for St Peter's, Rome. Wrote homoerotic love sonnets.

Julius II (Giuliano Della Rvere) (1443-1513) Italian pope
Established control of the Papal States over many territories. Patron of
artists incl. Bramante and Raphael. Commissioned Sistine Chapel ceiling

and his tomb from Michelangelo.

Julius II
Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571) Italian sculptor, goldsmith
His skills ranged from exquisitely jeweled salt cellars to powerful military
fortifications; his masterpiece is the bronze Perseus holding up the Head
of Medusa. Wrote lively Autobiography while imprisoned for sodomy.
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist, politician
Skilled diplomat; in 1580 he retired to his estates in Bordeaux, became
mayor, began writing Essays that established modern French prose style.
"On Friendship" was inspired by his love for a neighbor.

Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) British lawyer, scientist, philosopher
King's Counsel and Lord Chancellor under James I. Advocated empirical
science in The Advancement of Learning and New Atlantis. Wrote pithy
and penetrating Essays; "Of Friendship" celebrates male love.

Sir Francis Bacon

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) English playwright, poet

Tragedies incl. Doctor Faustus, Tamburlaine the Great, & Edward II,
which sympathetically portrays gay love. Homoerotic passages in Hero
and Leander and mythological poems. A rebel, murdered in a tavern.


William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English playwright, poet

The full range of human life is encompassed by his plays, some with
ambiguous plots in which a boy actor plays a girl disguised as a boy. His
Sonnets describe his love for his "Master-Mistress" as well as a "Dark

James VI & I (1566-1625) King of Scotland (from 1567) and England (from 1603)
United England & Scotland and brought peace to Europe, but frequent
disputes with his own parliament, who censured his love for his
favourites, esp. George Villiers, created Duke of Buckingham. Set up
committee to translate the Bible (King James Version).

James I
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) Italian painter
His style of dramatic realism had a wide impact on European painting.
Voluptuous homoerotic figures, incl. saints modeled on his boyfriends. A
hot-tempered man, often involved in street violence.
Catalina Erauso (1592?-1650) Spanish-Mexican soldier
She left the convent for a life of adventure, became a soldier, was
praised by the Spanish Crown for heroic military services, dubbed "The
Second Lieutenant Nun", granted permission by Pope Urban VII to dress
as a man.

Catalina Erauso
Christina (1626-1689) Queen of Sweden
Clever and beautiful, an "Amazonian" cross-dresser who refused to
marry. Attracted great artists and thinkers (incl. Descartes) to the court of
Sweden. Became Catholic convert in 1667, retired to Rome, patron of
Bernini and Corelli.

Queen Christina
Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) Italian-French musician, opera composer
Director of the Opera under Louis XIV, composed many works featuring
ballet as an important part of the opera. Became very wealthy and
engaged in scandalous homosexual affairs, while keeping a mistress as


Ihara Saikaku (1642-1693) Japanese novelist

Homosexual love was his major theme, esp. in The Great Mirror of Male
Love (1687), a collection of short stories about love between samurai
men & boys, monks & boys, and male actor-prostitutes in kabuki theatre.

Ihara Saikaku
Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768) German librarian, art historian
Established Neoclassical taste throughout Europe with his History of
Ancient Art, using Greek art as a univeral touchstone. Celebrated the
ideal beauty of the nude male in a book dedicated to his lover Friedrich
Reinhold von Berg.


Frederick II, the Great (1712-1786) King of Prussia

Ideal Enlightenment ruler, military genius, musician, composer for the
flute, correspondent with intellectuals incl. Voltaire. Forced by his father
to marry, but built a Temple of Friendship at his palace at Sans Souci.

Frederick II
Eleanor Butler (1737-1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1831) Anglo-Irish
Eloped together and settled in Wales. Many Romantic authors visited the
celebrated "Ladies of Llangollen". Though idealized for their romantic
friendship, some contemporaries called them "sapphists".
Jean-Jacques-Rgis de Cambacrs (1753-1824) French lawyer
Arch-Chancellor of the Empire under Napolon Bonaparte. Drafted the
Code Napolon, which omitted any reference to sodomy (confirming the
decision of the Constituent Assembly in 1791), thus decriminalizing


"Raucourt" (Franoise Saucerotte) (1756-1815) French actress

Star of the Comdie Franaise, protected by Marie Antoinette, admired
by Napolon. "Married" a female opera singer and presided over the
Anandrynes, a lesbian secret society. Her funeral was attended by
15,000 people.


Ladies of Llangollen

William Beckford (1760-1844) British art collector, writer

Wealthiest man in England, connoisseur and collector of art and books,
builder of a "Gothick" mansion, Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire, author of the
oriental novel Vathek (1786). Ostracized by society for his homosexuality.

Alexander Freiherr von Humboldt (1769-1859) German explorer, naturalist,
Scientific expeditions to South America (Voyage aux Regions
Equinoxiales) & Central Asia, traveled with young companions, studied
botany, geology, geography. Left his estate to his valet-lover.


Rev John Church (c.1782-c.1835) British dissenting minister

Popular preacher, built the Surrey Tabernacle meeting house in London.
Performed funerals for men hanged for sodomy, and blessed gay
marriages at The Swan male brothel in Vere Street. Imprisoned for two
years for homosexuality.

John Church
George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) British poet
Popular Romantic poet (Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Don Juan), creator
of the brooding "Byronic hero". Public scandals involving women, but
also many private affairs with men. Died helping in the campaign for
Greek independence.

Rictor Norton (compiler), "The Great Queers of History, Part 1: Born before 1800", 1 May 2004

When gay marriage was a rite

Gay marriage does not lead to polygamy according

to 6000 years of human history. In countries
where polygamy is legal, marriage for gays is
illegal. In countries where same-sex marriage
is legal, polygamy is illegal.

St. Catherines Monastery on Mt. Sinai

A Long Tradition Of Same Sex Marriage

As churches struggle with the issue of homosexuality, a long tradition of same sex marriage
indicates that the Christian attitude toward same sex unions may not always have been as
"straight" as is now suggested. A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St. Catherine's
monastery on Mt. Sinai.
It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman pronubus (best man)
overseeing what in a standard Roman icon would be the wedding of a husband and wife. In the
icon, Christ is the pronubus. Only one thing is unusual. The husband and wife are in fact two

St. Serge and St. Bacchus

Is the icon suggesting that a homosexual or same sex marriage

is one sanctified by Christ?
The very idea seems initially shocking. The full answer comes from other sources
about the two men featured, St. Serge and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who
became Christian martyrs.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early church, was not unusual, the association of
these two men was regarded as particularly close. Severus of Antioch in the sixth century
explained that "we should not separate in speech [Serge and Bacchus] who were joined in life."

More bluntly, in the definitive 10th century Greek account of their lives, St. Serge is openly
described as the "sweet companion and lover" of St. Bacchus.
In other words, it confirms what the earlier icon implies, that they were a homosexual couple
who enjoyed a celebrated gay marriage. Their orientation and relationship was openly accepted
by early Christian writers. Furthermore, in an image that to some modern Christian eyes might
border on blasphemy, the icon has Christ himself as their pronubus, their best man overseeing
their gay marriage.

Gay marriages are based on genuine love and devotion

Richard and John - together 61 years

Professor John Boswell's

Startling Discovery
The very idea of a Christian gay marriage seems incredible. Yet after a twelve year
search of Catholic and Orthodox church archives Yale history professor John Boswell
has discovered that a type of Christian gay marriage did exist as late as the 18th

Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone since
the days of Christ, but has evolved as a concept and as a ritual.

St. Serge and St. Bacchus,

a partnered gay couple

Professor Boswell discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies

in ancient church liturgical documents (and clearly separate from other types of
non-marital blessings of adopted children or land) were ceremonies called, among
other titles, the "Office of Same Sex Union" (10th and 11th century Greek) or the
"Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century). That certainly sounds like gay

John Boswell

earned the Ph.D. in History from Harvard University in 1975. He became a full

professor at Yale University

in 1982.

The ceremonies Boswell describes had all the contemporary

of a marriage.
1. A community gathered in a church
2. A blessing of the couple before the altar
3. Their right hands joined as at heterosexual marriages
4. The participation of a priest
5. The taking of the Eucharist
6. A wedding banquet afterwards

All of these are shown in contemporary drawings of the same sex union of Byzantine Emperor
Basil I (867-886) and his companion John. Such homosexual unions also took place in Ireland in
the late 12th to early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) has

Dr. Boswell lists in detail some same sex union ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical

Same Sex Unions In Pre-Modern Europe,

by John Boswell

One Greek 13th century "Order for Solemnization of Same Sex Union," having
invoked St. Serge and St. Bacchus, called on God to

"vouchsafe unto these Thy servants grace to love another and to abide unhated and not cause of
scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God and all Thy saints."
The ceremony concludes: "And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be
Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic "Office of the Same Sex Union," uniting two men or two
women, had the couple having their right hands laid on the Gospel while having a cross placed in
their left hands. Having kissed the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after
which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.

Ancient marriage records can be found in libraries across

Boswell found records of same sex unions in such diverse archives as those in the
Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, Istanbul, and in Sinai, covering a period from the
8th to 18th centuries. Nor is he the first to make such a discovery. The Dominican

Jacques Goar (1601-1653) includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek

prayer books.

While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, it was only from about the
14th century that anti-homosexual feelings swept western Europe. Yet same sex unions continued
to take place.

At St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope's parish church) in 1578,

St. John Lateran Church, Rome

As many as 13 couples were "married" at Mass with the apparent cooperation of the
local clergy, "taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after
which they slept and ate together," according to a contemporary report.

Gay people have partnered for thousands of years

Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century. Many
questionable historical claims about the church have been made by some recent
writers in The Irish Times newspaper.

Boswell's academic study however is so well researched and sourced as to pose fundamental
questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians concerning their attitude
toward homosexuality.

For the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be a cowardly cop-out. The
evidence shows convincingly that what the modern church claims has been its constant
unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is in fact nothing of the sort.
It proves that for much of the last two millennia, in parish churches and cathedrals throughout
Christendom from Ireland to Istanbul and in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships
were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given ability to love and commit to another person,
a love that could be celebrated, honoured and blessed both in the name of and through the
Eucharist in the presence of Jesus Christ.

Either we're all equal under the law or we're not equal.

Gay Marriage really is about equal rights,

civil rights
and human rights.

Everyone should have the right to get married and enjoy legal protections for their
committed, faithful partnership which only legal marriage provides.


Gay MarriageNothing New Under the Sun

May 22, 2012

Gay marriage and homosexuality were part of the moral landscape faced by the first Christians in
Ancient Rome.
Benjamin Wiker

Given that the gay marriage agenda will be increasingly pressed upon Catholics by the state, we
should be much more aware of what history has to teach us about gay marriagegiven that we
dont want to be among those who, ignorant of history, blithely condemned themselves to repeat
Contrary to the popular viewboth among proponents and opponentsgay marriage is not a
new issue. It cannot be couched (by proponents) as a seamless advance on the civil rights
movement, nor should it be understood (by opponents) as something thats evil merely because it
appears to them to be morally unprecedented.
Gay marriage wassurprise!alive and well in Rome, celebrated even and especially by select
emperors, a spin-off of the general cultural affirmation of Roman homosexuality. Gay marriage
was, along with homosexuality, something the first Christians faced as part of the pagan moral
darkness of their time.
What Christians are fighting against today, then, is not yet another sexual innovation peculiar to
our enlightened age, but the return to pre-Christian, pagan sexual morality.
So, what was happening in ancient Rome? Homosexuality was just as widespread among the
Romans as it was among the Greeks (a sign of which is that it was condoned even by the stolid
Stoics). The Romans had adopted the pederasty of the Greeks (aimed, generally, at boys between
the ages of 12 to 18). There was nothing shameful about such sexual relations among Romans, if
the boy was not freeborn. Slaves, both male and female, were considered property, and that
included sexual property.

But the Romans also extended homosexuality to adult men, even adult free men. And it is likely
that this crossing of the line from child to adult, unfree to freenot homosexuality as suchwas
what affronted the more austere of the Roman moralists.
And so we hear from Tacitus (56-117 AD), the great Roman historian, of the shameful sexual
exploits of a string of Roman emperors from Tiberius to Nero. Nero was the first imperial
persecutor of the Christians. His tutor and then advisor was the great Stoic moralist Seneca
himself. Unfortunately, Senecas lessons must have bounced right off the future emperor. When
he took the imperial seat, complete with its aura of self-proclaimed divinity, no trace of Stoic
austerity remained.
In Nero, Tacitus tells the reader, tyrannical passion, the hubris of proclaimed divinity, the
corruption of power, and every filthy depraved act, licit or illicit seemed to reach an imperial
peak. He not only had a passion for free-born boys but also for quite literally marrying other
men and even a boy, sometimes playing the part of the woman in the union and sometimes the
As Tacitus relates one incident (Grants translation): Nero was already corrupted by every lust,
natural and unnatural. But he now refuted any surmises that no further degradation was possible
for him. Forhe went through a formal wedding ceremony with one of the perverted gang called
Pythagoras. The emperor, in the presence of witnesses, put on the bridal veil. Dowry, marriage
bed, wedding torches, all were there. Indeed everything was public which even in a natural union
is veiled by night.
Such was only one instance. We also have from historian Seutonius, a contemporary of Tacitus, a
report of Neros marriage to Doryphorus (who was himself married to another man, Sporus).
Martial, the first-century A.D. Roman poet, reports incidences of male-male marriage as kinds of
perversions, but not uncommon perversions, speaking in one epigram (I.24) of a man who
played the bride yesterday. In another (12.42) he says mockingly, Bearded Callistratus gave
himself in marriage toAfer, in the manner in which a virgin usually gives herself in marriage
to a male. The torches shone in front, the bridal veils covered his face, and wedding toasts were
not absent, either. A dowry was also named. Does that not seem enough yet for you, Rome? Are
you waiting for him to give birth?
In Juvenals Second Satire (117), we hear of one Gracchus, arraying himself in the flounces and
train and veil of a bride, now a new-made bride reclining on the bosom of her husband. Such
seems to have been the usual way of male-male nuptials among the Romans, one of the men
actually dressing up as a woman and playing the part of a woman.
The notoriously debauched emperor Elagabalus (ruled 218-222) married and then divorced five
women. But he considered his male chariot driver to be his husband, and he also married one
Zoticus, an athlete. Elagabalus loved to dress up as a queen, quite literally.
Our reports of homosexual marriage from Rome give us, I hope, a clearer understanding of what
is at stake. As is the case today, it appears that the incidence of male-male marriage followed

upon the widespread acceptance of homosexuality; that is, the practice of homosexuality led to
the notion that, somehow, homosexual unions should share in the same status as heterosexual
We must also add that heterosexuality among the Romans was also in a sad state. Both
concubinage and prostitution were completely acceptable; pornography and sexually explicit
entertainment and speech were entirely normalized; the provision of sex by both male and female
slaves was considered a duty by masters. Paeans to the glory of marriage were made, not because
the Romans had some proto-Christian notion of the sanctity of marriage, but because Rome
needed more citizen-soldiers just when the Romans were depopulating themselves by doing
anything to avoid having children.
The heterosexual moral disrepair in Rome therefore formed the social basis for the Roman slide
into homosexual marriage rites. We hear of them from critics bent on satirizing such unions. The
problem for the Romans wasnt homosexuality as such, but that a Roman man would debase
himself and play the part of a woman in matrimony.
Christians had a problem with the whole Roman sexual scene. We are, of course, not surprised to
find that the first Christians accepted and carried forward the strict rejection of homosexuality
inherent in Judaism, but this was part of its more encompassing rejection of any sexuality outside
of heterosexual, monogamous marriage. Christians are not to be lauded for affirming that
marriage must be defined as a union of a man and a woman, because that is the natural default of
any people intent on not disappearing in a single generation. What was peculiar to Christianity
(again, not just following Judaism, but intensifying it) was the restriction of sexuality only to
monogamous, heterosexual marriage.
The Christians found themselves in a pagan culture where there were few restrictions on
sexuality at all, other than the imaginationa culture that, to note the obvious but exceedingly
important, looks suspiciously like ours.
The first-century A.D. catechetical manual, the Didache, makes refreshingly clear what pagans
will have to give up, in regard to Roman sexuality, once they entered the Church. It begins with
the ominous words, There are two ways: one of life and one of deathand there is a great
difference between the two ways. The pagan converts are then confronted with a list of
commands. Some of which would have been quite familiar and reasonable to Romans, such as,
You will not murder and, You will not commit adultery (although for Romans, abortion
wasnt murder, and a husband having sex with slaves or prostitutes was not considered
But then followed strange commands (at least to the Romans), You will not corrupt boys; You
will not have illicit sex (ou porneuseis); You will not murder offspring by means of abortion
[and] you will not kill one having been born. Against the norm in Rome, Christians must reject
pedophilia, fornication and homosexuality, abortion, and infanticide. The list also commands,
You will not make potions (ou pharmakeuseis), a prohibition against widespread practices in
the Roman Empire which included potions that stopped conception or caused abortion.

I include the prohibitions against sexual practices heartily affirmed by the Romans alongside
prohibitions against contraception, abortion, and infanticide for a very important reason.
Christians defined the goal of sexuality in terms of the natural ability to procreate. What was
different, again, was not recognizing the obvious need for a man and a woman to make a child
Stoics argued along the same lines. What was peculiar to Christianity was removing all other
expressions of sexuality from legitimacy (many Stoic men had male paramours). The Roman
elevation of sexual pleasure above procreation, and hence outside this tightly-defined area of
sexual legitimacy defined by Christianity, led to the desire for contraceptive potions,
abortifacients, and infanticide.
It also led to seeing marriage as nothing but an arena for sexual pleasure, which in turn allowed
for an equivalency of heterosexual and homosexual marriage.
The Theodosian Code, drawn up by Christian emperors in the fifth century, A.D. made same-sex
marriage illegal (referring, as precedent, to edicts published under fourth-century emperors
Constantius II and Constans).
We can see, then, that Christians face nothing new in regard to the push for gay marriage. In fact,
it is something quite old, and represents a return to the pagan views of sexuality that dominated
the Roman Empire into which Christianity was born.
[Editor's note: The years for the reign of Elagabalus were incorrect in the original posting; his
reign ended in AD 222, not AD 212.)
About the Author
Benjamin Wiker
Benjamin Wiker, Ph.D. is Visiting Associate Professor of Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
His most recent book is Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion. His website is



By ThosPayne

A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St. Catherine's Monastery on
Mt. Sinai in Israel. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a
traditional Roman pronubus (a best man), overseeing a wedding. The
pronubus is Christ. The married couple are both men.

Is the icon
suggesting that a gay
"wedding" is being
sanctified by Christ
himself? The idea
seems shocking. But
the full answer
comes from other
early Christian
sources about the
two men featured in
the icon, St. Sergius
and St. Bacchus,2
two Roman soldiers
who were Christian martyrs. These two officers in the Roman army incurred the
anger of Emperor Maximian when they were exposed as secret Christians by
refusing to enter a pagan temple. Both were sent to Syria circa 303 CE where
Bacchus is thought to have died while being flogged. Sergius survived torture
but was later beheaded. Legend says that Bacchus appeared to the dying
Sergius as an angel, telling him to be brave because they would soon be
reunited in heaven.
While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Christian church, was not
unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly
intimate. Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch (512 - 518 CE) explained that, "we
should not separate in speech they [Sergius and Bacchus] who were joined in
life". This is not a case of simple "adelphopoiia." In the definitive 10th century
account of their lives, St. Sergius is openly celebrated as the "sweet companion
and lover" of St. Bacchus. Sergius and Bacchus's close relationship has led many
modern scholars to believe they were lovers. But the most compelling evidence
for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, written in New
Testament Greek describes them as "erastai, or "lovers". In other words, they
were a male homosexual couple. Their orientation and relationship was not
only acknowledged, but it was fully accepted and celebrated by the early
Christian church, which was far more tolerant than it is today.
Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone
since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual.
Prof. John Boswell3, the late Chairman of Yale Universitys history department,
discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient
Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the
"Office of Same-Sex Union" (10th and 11th century), and the "Order for Uniting
Two Men" (11th and 12th century).
These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole
community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was
conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest
officiatied in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was
celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations

of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE)
and his companion John.
Such same gender Christian sanctified unions also took place in Ireland in the
late 12th and early 13th centuries, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus
Cambrensis) recorded.
Same-sex unions in pre-modern Europe list in great detail some same gender
ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th
century rite, "Order for Solemn Same-Sex Union", invoked St. Serge and St.
Bacchus, and called on God to "vouchsafe unto these, Thy servants [N and N],
the grace to love one another and to abide without hate and not be the cause
of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God,
and all Thy saints". The ceremony concludes: "And they shall kiss the Holy
Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded".
Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic "Office of the Same Sex Union", uniting
two men or two women, had the couple lay their right hands on the Gospel
while having a crucifix placed in their left hands. After kissing the Gospel, the
couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having
raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.
Records of Christian same sex unions have been discovered in such diverse
archives as those in the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Istanbul and in
the Sinai, covering a thousand-years from the 8th to the 18th century.
The Dominican missionary and Prior, Jacques Goar (1601-1653), includes such
ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek Orthodox prayer books,
Euchologion Sive Rituale Graecorum Complectens Ritus Et Ordines Divinae
Liturgiae (Paris, 1667).
While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times,
homophobic writings didnt appear in Western Europe until the late 14th
century. Even then, church-consecrated same sex unions continued to take
At St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope's parish church) in 1578, as
many as thirteen same-gender couples were joined during a high Mass and with
the cooperation of the Vatican clergy, "taking communion together, using the
same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together" according to a
contemporary report. Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia
in the 18th century.
Prof. Boswell's academic study is so well researched and documented that it
poses fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual
Christians about their own modern attitudes towards homosexuality.
For the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be cowardly
and deceptive. The evidence convincingly shows that what the modern church
claims has always been its unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is, in
fact, nothing of the sort.

It proves that for the last two millennia, in parish churches and cathedrals
throughout Christendom, from Ireland to Istanbul and even in the heart of
Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a
[Christian] god-given love and commitment to another person, a love that could
be celebrated, honored and blessed, through the Eucharist in the name of, and
in the presence of, Jesus Christ.

"... in the evening the youth came to him [Jesus], wearing

a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with
him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the
Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the
other side of the Jordan." The Secret Gospel of Mark,
The Other Bible, Willis Barnstone, Editor, Harper & Row,
San Francisco, 1984, pp. 339-342.

1.; Retrieved 6 Jul 2009, 1830 PST [ ]
2. Saints Sergius & Bacchus, Roman martyrs. Their Catholic feast day is October 7th.
Catholic Encyclopedia [ ]
3. John Eastburn Boswell (American Council of Learned Societies); Same-Sex Unions in
Premodern Europe, Random House, June 1994
12 Most Important Lines From the Historic Gay M
arriage Decision

From this day forward, there is no more gay marriage and

straight marriage in America, it's just marriage now
By Tim Dickinson June 26, 2015

ers of same-sex marriage rallied in front of the Supreme Court Friday morning. Bill
O'Leary/The Washington Post/Getty

In a momentous day for civil rights, the Supreme Court ruled Friday morning that "same-sex
couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry" in all 50 states.

The Nastiest Gay Marriage Dissent Quotes

As a matter of law, the decision builds on Loving v. Virginia the 1967 case overturning state
bans on interracial marriage extending the same judicial logic to same-sex unions. The court
ruled that state same-sex marriage bans are not only unconstitutional, but hateful: "It demeans
gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the Nation's society."
In front of the Supreme Court this morning, marriage equality activists outnumbered Christian
reactionaries hundreds to one. They held balloons spelling out CHOOSE LOVE, and signs like:
"Anthony Kennedy is My Spirit Animal." Cries of joy rang out when the decision was
announced. A gay men's chorus began to sing.
The 5-4 decision was written by conservative justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by the quartet of
the high court's liberal justices. The verdict is a powerful testament to liberty, marriage and the
cruelty of barring gay couples from the institution. The decision was delivered on the anniversary
of Lawrence v. Kansas, a decision also swung by justice Kennedy, that overturned state bans on
gay sex in 2003. How far we've come in 12 short years.
From this day forward, there is no more gay marriage and straight marriage.
In America, it's just marriage now.
Here are the 12 most important lines from Friday's decision:
1. "The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change."
2. "The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times."
3. "[T]he right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual
autonomy. This abiding connection between marriage and liberty is why Loving invalidated
interracial marriage bans..."
4. "Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right
to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children
suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser....The marriage laws at issue here
thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples."
5. "It demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the
Nation's society."
6. "Same-sex couples, too, may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage and seek
fulfillment in its highest meaning."

7. "The right to marry is fundamental as a matter of history and tradition, but rights come not
from ancient sources alone. They rise, too, from a better informed understanding of how
constitutional imperatives define a liberty that remains urgent in our own era."
8. "Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as
opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny
them this right."
9. "It is now clear that the challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be
further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality."
10. "These considerations lead to the conclusion that the right to marry is a fundamental right
inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of
the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that
11. "The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry."
12. "No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity,
devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater
than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a
love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they
disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they
seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in
loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in
the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

The Lawyer Defending Discrimination In

The Supreme Court May Have Just Talked
Himself Out Of Victory
by Ian Millhiser

Posted on April 28, 2015 at 1:48 pm

CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

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WASHINGTON, D.C. Before oral arguments began in Obergefell v. Hodges, the consolidated
cases challenging marriage discrimination under the Constitution, a Supreme Court decision in
favor of marriage equality seemed like a near certainty. After Solicitor General Donald Verrilli,
the second of two lawyers to argue in favor of equality, took his seat, the outcome of the cases
seemed much less sure.
The Courts conservatives fixated upon their belief that same-sex marriages are a very new
institution. Every definition [of marriage] I looked up prior to about a dozen years ago, Chief
Justice John Roberts claimed, limited marriages to opposite-sex couples. Advocates for equality,
Roberts continued, are seeking to change what the institution is.
Meanwhile, Justice Samuel Alito argued that even ancient Greece, a society he perceived as
welcoming to same-sex relationships, did not permit same-sex marriage. Justice Antonin Scalia
insisted that for millennia, not a single society supported marriage equality.
Most ominously of all for supporters of equal marriage rights, Justice Anthony Kennedy the
key fifth vote who authored all three of the Courts most important gay rights decisions
seemed to share Scalias concerns. Though he noted that about as much time has passed between
the landmark 2003 gay rights case Lawrence v. Texas and today as has passed between Brown v.

Board of Education and the Courts decision striking down racial marriage discrimination,
Kennedy fretted that were talking about millennia that human civilization existed without
recognizing same-sex marriages.
Not long after John Bursch, the lawyer defending discrimination, took the podium, however,
Kennedy began to sound much more like the justice who supported gay rights in cases like
Curiously, Bursch largely ignored the arguments rooted in history and tradition that animated so
many of the conservative justices earlier questions, and instead focused on an argument that had
little success that last time it was presented to the Court. When you change the definition of
marriage, Bursch declared, that has consequences.
When pressed to explain the consequences, Bursch asked the Court to consider two different
couples, one of which believes that marriage exists for the benefit of children, and the other
which believes that it exists to foster relationships between adults. If the Court adopts the view of
the second couple a position he claimed the justices would implicitly embrace if they allowed
same-sex couples, who cannot procreate, to marry that will send the message that marriage
has little to do with children, which will in turn lead to more children being born out-of-wedlock.
The reasonable voter, Bursch insisted, could conclude that it was necessary to ban same-sex
couples from marrying in order to halt this attenuated chain of events that allegedly ends in more
children being born to unmarried couples.
Several justices appeared to disagee with Burschs understanding of how a reasonable voter
would act, but Bursch was not making a novel argument. To the contrary, his argument closely
resembled Justice Alitos dissenting opinion in United States v. Windsor, which argued that the
battle over marriage equality is really a battle between two incompatible views of marriage a
traditional view which sees marriage as an exclusively opposite-sex institution and as one
inextricably linked to procreation and biological kinship and a consent-based view that
primarily defines marriage as the solemnization of mutual commitment marked by strong
emotional attachment and sexual attraction between two persons.
Only one other justice, however, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined this part of Alitos dissent, so
Burschs decision to rely so heavily on an argument that only swayed two justices in Windsor
was an odd strategic choice.
One justice who did not join Alitos dissent was Justice Kennedy. As Bursch started to lay out his
view that child-centered marriage is different than adult-centered marriage, Kennedy balked.
Same-sex couples, Kennedy insisted, want to say that we too should be able to enjoy the
dignity of marriage. He also accused Bursch of presenting an argument which wrongly implied
that same-sex couples cannot bond with their children.
Burschs response to Kennedys concerns was a disaster. After Bursch insisted that marriage was
never intended to be dignitary [sic] bestowing, Kennedy quipped back I thought that was the
whole purpose of marriage! Kennedys opinion in Lawrence, which outlawed a sex ban
targeting a gay couple, explained that personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation,

contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education involve choices central to
personal dignity and autonomy, and are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth
Amendment. So when Kennedy starts accusing a lawyer of denying dignity to gay couples,
thats a major sign that lawyer is in trouble.
An open question is, assuming that there are five votes in favor of marriage equality, how the
author of the opinion will construct the Courts reasoning. Several of the liberal justices seemed
prepared to hold that marriage is a fundamental constitutional right that is violated if gay couples
are excluded. This would be a sub-optimal outcome for gay rights, as it could still potentially
permit states to discriminate against gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals outside of the marriage
context. But it was not at all clear that Kennedy was prepared to sign onto a fundamental rights
opinion. To the contrary, Kennedy asked Verrilli about a past decision establishing that
fundamental rights should be defined narrowly.
In the past, however, Kennedy has not shied away from writing gay rights decisions that are
heavy on flowery language and light on ordinary legal reasoning, so he could easily side with
marriage equality without providing a doctrinally satisfying explanation for his decision. In any
event, however, the argument finished with its clearest sign that Kennedy was likely to side with
After an hour of argument on whether the Constitution protects marriage equality, the Court
heard another hour of argument on a limited question if the Constitution does not require
states to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, does it still require those states to recognize
same-sex marriages from other states. As several justices pointed out during this argument, the
premise of this second question was that supporters of equality had already lost on the first
Kennedy, however, was largely silent during the second argument. It was as if he already knew
that his answer to the first question would render the second one moot.
I oppose same-sex marriage (and no, I'm not a bigot)
By Michael Jensen

Posted 27 May 2015, 4:14pm

Photo: The revisionist case has not

provided a reasonable definition of marriage beyond saying that if two people want
to call their relationship by that name, they should be able to. (AFP: Kevork

We are told there are those in favour of same-sex marriage, and then there are the bigots. But
allow me to make the case for traditional marriage as being between one man and one
woman, writes Michael Jensen.
The passing of the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage has triggered a round of Australian
advocates announcing that it is now "our turn". We lag behind the UK, many European countries,
some states in the US, and (perish the thought!) New Zealand, and we ought to get with the
The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, in line with the new ALP dogma, has announced that
he is introducing a private members bill into Parliament next Monday. He has said:
It's time for our laws to reflect the values of modern Australia and to include everyone as
equals ... It's time for marriage equality.
Whatever our religious views about marriage ... I believe we have to change this law which
discriminates against adult couples on the basis of who they love.
How could anyone stand opposed? The terms in which the pro-marriage redefinition case are
stated make it sound as inevitable as the dawn, and as unstoppable as the tide. And these same
terms make opposing a redefinition of marriage sound primitive and even barbaric. There are
those in favour of change, we are told, and then there are the bigots.
But simply saying "it's time" doesn't make an argument. Neither does the need to keep up with
the O'Haras, the Smiths, and the Pedersens. Neither does the support of TV stars, comedians, or
even Bono. At best, these are arguments from fashion.

It is not even the case that "all the surveys say Australians want it" is a sufficient argument. The
surveys say that Australians want capital punishment. Wisely, our politicians don't listen to
surveys on that issue (and I agree with them). They should exercise leadership, not follow

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headlines and alerts on major breaking stories.

Could it be that if you haven't heard the case opposing a change to the marriage law, it is because
the language of those advocating it has been so emotive that the contrary case can't be heard
above the noise? Could it really be said that a civil disagreement has taken place? I am not
confident that it has.
I would like to make the case for traditional marriage as being between one man and one woman;
but to do so with some important qualifications.
One of them is this: if the Marriage Act changes, this is not the end of the world for me. There
are greater causes in this world than this. I am more distressed by our inattention to children in
detention, or our national greed problem, than by the possibility that the definition of marriage
might be changed.
Another is that I stand adamantly against the bullying and vilification of people of minority
sexual identities.
Nevertheless, I don't think that the case for change is anywhere near as convincing as its
proponents think it is. The case has been made almost entirely in terms of "equality" and its
alleged opposite: "discrimination". The argument is that applying the word "marriage" to some
relationships and not to others is unequal treatment, and thus discrimination. These are both
apparently self-evidently bad.
But it is the duty of the law to judiciously discriminate and to appropriately recognise difference
with, at times, unequal treatment of things that are not the same. It isn't automatically wrong to
discriminate per se.
In fact, it may be the case that offering supposedly "equal" treatment is incoherent, as it is in this
case. It is crucial to notice that the proposed revision of marriage laws involves exactly that: a
revision of marriage. In order to offer the status of marriage to couples of the same sex, the very
meaning of marriage has to be changed. In which case, what same-sex couples will have will not
be the same as what differently sexed couples now have.

It will be called marriage, but it won't be marriage as we know it. It won't be "marriage equality":
it will be an entirely new thing.
This is where Bill Shorten again misunderstands what marriage is. As we now understand it,
marriage is not merely the expression of a love people have for each other. It is, or is intended as,
a life-long union between two people who exemplify the biological duality of the human race,
with the openness to welcoming children into the world. Even when children do not arrive, the
differentiated twoness of marriage indicates its inherent structure.
Now, I didn't pluck this definition from the sky, nor is it simply a piece of religious teaching. It is
the meaning of marriage that emerges from all human cultures as they reflect on and experience
what it is to be male and female. It is only in the last 15 years that anyone has seriously thought
I prepare many couples for marriage each year. Most of them already cohabit. When I ask them
about marriage, they almost always indicate that it is for them the beginning of a new family unit
open to welcoming children.
A child is a tangible expression of our sexed twoness.
To remove the sexual specificity from the notion of marriage makes marriage not a realisation of
the bodily difference between male and female that protects and dignifies each, but simply a
matter of choice.
This is precisely what many pro-revision advocates themselves argue: that a new definition of
marriage would establish marriage as a new thing altogether. As Brandeis University's E.J Graff
puts it, a change in marriage law would mean that marriage would "ever after stand for sexual
choice, forcutting the link between sex and diapers".
Instead of the particular orientation of marriage towards the bearing and nurture of children, we
will have a kind of marriage in which the central reality is my emotional choice. It will be the
triumph, in the end, of the will.
The revisionist case has not provided a clear and reasonable definition of marriage beyond
saying that if two people want to call their relationship by that name, they should be able to by
Now, having put that opinion forward, I fully recognise that there are many people of
intelligence and good will who disagree. I do not expect to convince everyone. What I do hope is
that my contribution here will not be derided as bigoted or homophobic out of hand, but that it
will be seen as part of a civil discussion.

Rev Dr Michael Jensen is the rector at St Mark's Anglican Church, Darling Point, and is the
author of My God, My God: Is It Possible To Believe Anymore?
Topics: government-and-politics, gays-and-lesbians, marriage

provocative issues the Supreme Court raised

on same-sex marriage
Supreme Court hears arguments on same-sex marriage

View Photos
The Supreme Court takes on cases that could give same-sex couples nationwide a constitutional
right to marry.
By Sandhya Somashekhar April 29
The Supreme Court justices asked a lot of eyebrow-raising questions Tuesday during oral
arguments over same-sex marriage, including topics such as polygamy and whether opponents
simply dislike gay people. Here is a sampling of the more provocative issues they raised in the

1. Are biological children the whole point of marriage?

For the states defending their right to ban same-sex unions, the central question in this case has
been: What is the states interest in marriage? They argue that the only reason the state has a role
in marriage is that it has an interest in creating incentives for parents to stay together and raise
their biological children.
But that line of logic raises some uncomfortable questions, which came up in Tuesdays
arguments. Among them: Does that mean a 55-year-old woman should not be allowed to marry
because she can no longer bear children? Are adoptive families somehow inferior? What of the
couples who cant or dont want to have children? And dont these incentives often fail, leaving
moms and dads to walk away from their spouses and children?
The gay marriage debate at the Supreme Court, explained
The nation's highest court is hearing Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that examines if same-sex
couples have a constitutional right to marry. Here's what you need to know about the case that
could make gay marriage legal across the nation. (Julie Percha/The Washington Post)
Pressed on these hypotheticals, John Bursch, the former Michigan solicitor general who
represented states that want to keep restrictive laws, offered some responses. Adoptive families
are heroic, he said, playing a critical role when those biological families fail or fall apart. There
are privacy reasons why a state cannot ask a couple about their plans to have children before
giving them a marriage license, he said.
In the end, Burschs job was not to delve into these different scenarios but simply to show that
the states reason for this institution is a reason that has nothing to do, that is inapplicable, to
same-sex couples, Justice Antonin Scalia said.
But Justice Elena Kagan disagreed. I think before something as fundamental to a society and to
individuals as marriage, before an exclusion of this kind can be made in that institution, the state
needs some reason for that exclusion, she said.
2. Why didnt the ancient Greeks have same-sex marriage?
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. threw Mary L. Bonauto, the attorney representing gay couples
challenging states bans, for a loop early in the proceedings when he asked her about the ancient
Greeks approach to homosexual relationships, even quizzing her on Platos views of such
The point he was trying to make was that there must have been some rational reason besides
prejudice that societies have for thousands of years defined marriage as exclusively between a
man and a woman. The ancient Greeks were permissive, to some degree, of homosexual
relationships, and yet they did not condone same-sex marriage, Alito said.

Bonauto, apparently impatient with the line of questioning, responded, I cant speak to was
happening with the ancient philosophers. What matters are the principles of liberty and equality
that were integral to the founding of the United States, she said.
But even Justice Stephen G. Breyer, one of the courts reliably liberal members, thought it worth
asking why it was up to the nine justices of the Supreme Court to change the long-standing
institution of marriage that predates the United States to include same-sex couples.
[ Supreme Court hears argu ments in historic gay-marriage case ]
3. Polygamy, miscegenation, incest and child brides
Proponents of a national right to same-sex marriage have argued over and over that the answer to
the question of who decides about marriage is simple: People decide whom they want to marry,
not the government or anyone else.
But the justices tested this contention by bringing up consensual forms of marriage that are
limited or banned, such as plural marriage, marriage between blood relatives and marriage that
involves minors. Some of the conservative justices asked: Would rules governing these factors
also come into question if states are forced to allow same-sex couples to marry?
Its true, marriage laws vary significantly on the other matters. While every state bars marriage
between more than two individuals, it is accepted practice in some countries. New Hampshire
allows girls as young as 13 and boys as young as 14 to marry with parental consent, while others
peg the age at closer to 15 or 16. Some states recognize first-cousin marriages from out of state
while others do not.
The liberal justices were more inclined to bring up anti-miscegenation laws, which barred or
limited interracial marriages. These laws were invalidated after the famous 1967 Loving v.
Virginia ruling, which has been cited as precedent by same-sex marriage supporters.
4. Would it ultimately be better for same-sex marriage if the court ruled against it?
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. brought up a point that has been was raised in the past by some
supporters of same-sex marriage. Wouldnt it be better for same-sex marriage, considering how
quickly views of it are changing, to let it become the norm slowly, state by state, rather than
forcing it upon everyone at once the way a sweeping Supreme Court ruling would?
Some justices also asked whether it would not be better for everyone if the social experiment
of same-sex marriage played out in some states, giving other states a window into whether it is
But Bonauto countered that the effect of waiting is not neutral. It does consign samesex couples to this outlier status, and there will be profound consequences that follow from that.
[Outside Supreme Court, gay-marriage supporters jubilant and expectant]

5. Isnt this really all about hatred of gays?

Supporters of national same-sex marriage contend that laws banning same-sex marriage make
sense only if you have a problem with homosexuality and homosexuals. Even if the purpose of
the laws isnt to demean gays, it has that effect, Bonauto said in response to a challenging
question from Alito over whether she truly believes the states are motivated by prejudice.
They encompass moral judgments and stereotypes about gay people, she said.
But the other side tried to emphasize that this was not about animus toward gay people. They
said it was about the ability of a state to establish laws that further its interest in tying children to
their biological parents. And they argued that it was about the right of voters to decide on an
important cultural issue.
The states dont intend to take away dignity from anyone, Bursch said. We respect all parents,
and we hope that they love their children. But this court taking this important issue away from
the people will have dramatic impacts on the democratic process.
Bursch also suggested that establishing a national right to same-sex marriage could lead to more
people being labeled bigots for their views. When you enact social change of this magnitude
through the federal courts, its cutting off that dialogue, and its saying one group gets their
definition and the other is maligned as being irrational or filled with animus, he said.

Sandhya Somashekhar is the social change reporter for the Washington Post.

Classical Studies Newsletter, Volume X, Winter 2004

Roman Same-Sex Weddings from the Legal Perspective

By Prof. Bruce W. Frier

On occasion during the early Roman Empire, pairs of Roman men are described as having undergone complete
traditional marriage ceremonies: weddings with all the trimmings, so to speak. The sources that mention such
weddings are few, difficult to interpret, and invariably hostile. But they are also highly detailed, to such an
extent that we can be confident this was a true social institution,
not just an isolated or aberrational occurrence.
These sources, although long known, have only recently
attracted much attention, in large part, obviously, because of the
modern debate about same-sex marriage. The Roman sources on
marriage between males are, by general agreement, among the
best evidence we now possess for the emergence of long-term,
egalitarian homosexual relationships (consensual unions
between adults).
This short paper argues two propositions. First, although the
participants in Roman same-sex weddings clearly took the
proceedings seriously, they almost certainly did not regard such
a wedding ceremony as a prelude to legitimate Roman marriage,
which in any case would certainly not have resulted from such a
ceremony. Second, when we probe more deeply into the
relationship between the Roman wedding ceremony and legitimate marriage, a possibility of some interest
emerges: the Romans, encouraged by the structure of legal rules concerning marriage, may have come to
understand wedding ceremonies as a ritual that could be and was formally detached from legitimate marriage;
and so the ceremony could be conducted when there was occasion to invoke, by way of forceful analogy, the
broader social institution of marriage, but without making any necessary or specific claim to legitimate marriage
itself. In the case of same-sex weddings, this possibility is interesting because it implies that the male
participants in Roman same-sex weddings did not necessarily view legitimate marriage (or some semblance of
legitimate marriage) as even the desired outcome of their ceremony.
The Sources
The earliest evidence for same-sex weddings concerns the Emperor Nero in A.D. 64 and 67. But it is more to
the point to begin a generation later, with a poem of Martial published about A.D. 101. (Poem 12.42, see right).
Martial describes the marriage of two men: the bearded Callistratus as bride, the rugged Afer (there is an
obvious pun on rigidus) as husband. In his choice of names for the pair, Martial may imply disparity in status:
Afer perhaps a freeborn Roman citizen, and Callistratus a freedman; but it hardly seems to matter. In any case,
what Martial accentuates is the completeness of the ceremony: the torches, bridal veil, wedding hymn, and
dowry. Within the epigram Martial uses this completeness as a bridge to his punchline: the marriage will have
everything but issue. Martial's invocation of Rome suggests
that his point here is moral.
In about A.D. 117, Juvenal wrote his second satire, a rambling
tract that nominally targets the moral hypocrisy of Rome's
social and intellectual elite, with particularly intense criticism
of passive homosexual behavior. A long passage of this satire
(2.117-142; see below) greatly amplifies Martial's spare
epigram, with harsh invective replacing Martial's urbanity.
Juvenal's target is a certain Gracchus, his name purposely
evocative of the ancient Roman aristocracy. Juvenal may intend
some specific person, an otherwise unknown noble in
Domitian's court, but little depends on this. Rather, play is
made of the fact that Gracchus is not only "a man of high birth
and estate," but also a Roman priest. Yet Gracchus has recently married a male musician, a cornet-player ("or
perhaps he'd performed on a straight horn," another obscene pun); and this musician is certainly his social


Here it is the aristocrat who assumes the role of bride, lolling in his husband's lap. In the Roman context,
Juvenal's reversal of the social balance emphasizes Gracchus' moral depravity, since Romans commonly viewed
passive homosexuals with particular contempt. The sole concession to everyday morality is that such weddings
still take place outside public view; but Juvenal anticipates with horror the day when such a couple will
celebrate their marriage openly and want it in the public record.
Again, stress is laid on the completeness of the wedding ceremony: the huge dowry and the nuptial tablets, the
bridal gown and veil, the felicitations of guests, and the traditional banquet on the day following the wedding.
Of especial interest are the final verses, in which Juvenal comments on the couple's inability to bear children. At
first he describes this only as an "enormous irritant" to the male brides, since the absence of offspring will
jeopardize the stability of their unions. But then Juvenal lurches toward a different point: their failure to
procreate is, in fact, a part of "nature's plan." It is good, he thinks, that such couples will die without offspring.
Juvenal's indictment centers on what he regards as the shamelessness of the marriage, its flouting of tradition.
But this indictment ostensibly runs no deeper than a generalized protest that the marriage ceremony is contrary
to Roman tradition. Even Juvenal's final remarks on the couple's childlessness are, like the end of Martial's
epigram, not expressly grounded in any broader assertion that same-sex marriages somehow undermine
marriage and the family as legal and social institutions. Both poets instead presume that occurrence of the
wedding ceremony itself will suffice to arouse either mirth or ire. Their protest, in other words, is not against
same-sex unions themselves, but against the misappropriation of a venerable ceremony.
Same-sex marriage ceremonies of this type are first attested in A.D. 64 and 67, when the Emperor Nero, if our
sources (all savagely critical) are to be believed, underwent two of them: the first, as a bride, to his wine

steward, a freedman named Pythagoras; the second, as a groom to a castrated actor named Sporus who played
the role of the bride. These marriage ceremonies conspicuously resemble the later weddings in Martial and
Juvenal, their completeness, for instance, is emphasized in our sources. However, it remains unclear whether
Nero's weddings should be regarded as having established the prototype for the later ones, or whether, instead,
they simply participated in a tradition that was by 64 already established.
The Protocol for Same-Sex Weddings
As the sources stress, these same-sex weddings duplicate the colorful rituals of traditional weddings exactly, to
the point of tiniest detail. Everything is here, including dowries attested by signed marriage tablets.
Completeness is consistently a matter of capital importance in our sources. Indeed, these are among the only
really detailed descriptions of Roman marriage ceremonies that survive to us. Completeness results in Roman
same-sex ceremonies remaining strongly gendered even when the results might appear incongruous: in Martial's
second poem, the bearded Callistratus in a wedding veil; or, in Juvenal, "a man of high birth and estate," a
Roman priest, donning "flounces and a train and a bridal veil." In other words, the wedding ceremony is not
adapted to the fact that the couple are of the same sex.
It is reasonably clear that through this ceremony the couple undertakes some form of
long-term commitment. Thus, Juvenal's reflections on the couple's inevitable
childlessness, at the end of the quoted passage, are hackneyed in themselves but
would otherwise lack point. Roman authors who evaluate these ceremonies consider
them objectionable per se, and not simply because, for instance, one male partner is
assuming a bride's dress and role. In sources such as Martial, 12.42, any gender
distinction recedes into the background and ridicule is directed toward both parties,
indicating that the wedding itself is being criticized; and it seems clear that ancient
revulsion over Nero's marriage to Sporus (in which Nero took the role of husband)
was not based solely upon the boy's having been first castrated.
The Juvenal passage clearly indicates that these same-sex weddings were performed
in private, presumably from fear of offending public opinion. This is a strong indicator that the general public
viewed with strong disapproval the enactment of a wedding ceremony outside the context of entry into
legitimate marriage; hence, Tacitus' outrage that Nero's marriage to Pythagoras had been performed openly
Finally, neither Martial nor Juvenal appears to anticipate that a reader would not previously have heard of such
same-sex weddings. Although they may not have been common, they were at least frequent enough to have
been a topic of discussion in Rome. Unfortunately, little definite can be said about the social background of the
participants in ordinary same-sex weddings, but no source indicates that the man playing the bride was routinely
of lower social status than the groom, or vice versa.
Insofar as we can tell, Roman same-sex weddings occurred within a fairly narrow interval of time, the
generation from the reign of Nero to that of Domitian. Perhaps not coincidentally, this era also corresponds to
the high point of the public visibility of homosexuality at Rome. At this time, consensual homosexual
relationships between free adults were almost certainly not criminal in themselves; and even if, which is
unlikely, they were technically illegal, the law was generally not enforced. However, especially passive
homosexual behavior was publicly discouraged and stigmatized in various ways.
Despite this broad tolerance, celebration of a same-sex wedding may have strained the limits of Roman
tolerance. No emperor after Nero imitated his practice, not even Hadrian whose relationship with Antinous
attained such a degree of notoriety as to provoke at Rome what may have been a generalized reaction against
overt homosexual behavior.

Not Legitimate Marriages

The fundamental problem with same-sex marriage ceremonies is to establish what the participants in these
ceremonies thought that they were accomplishing: why they went to such extraordinary lengths to duplicate
traditional Roman marriage ceremonies, and what they hoped to achieve thereby. It is no easy task to answer
these questions, since our sources are all implacably hostile to the practice, and no surviving source even
attempts to describe these weddings from a more sympathetic standpoint.
The historian John Boswell maintained that these marriages "were legal and familiar among the upper classes" "formal unions - i.e., publicly recognized relationships entailing some change in status for one or both parties,
comparable in this sense to heterosexual marriage." Boswell's position is not entirely clear, but he seems to have
believed that full legitimate marriage resulted; at any rate, subsequent historians have understood him to have
held this, and his view has gained some currency in modern scholarship on the history of homosexuality.
But most Roman historians disagree. It is true that no Roman source explicitly forbids same-sex marriage. But
that was also true in most American states until quite recently. Still, American courts have universally rejected
the argument that what is not forbidden must be legally permitted. In doing so, they have reasoned from an
assumed legal definition of marriage; for instance, in 1971 the Minnesota Supreme Court held that the statute
"which governs 'marriage,' employs that term as one of common usage, meaning the state of union between
persons of the opposite sex." American courts have therefore instead preferred to discuss same-sex marriage in
broader constitutional terms.
The Roman jurists would probably have accepted a similar definitional argument. The jurists constructed the
entire Roman law of marriage around the assumption that marriage was between a man and a woman. The most
explicit source in this regard comes from the jurist Modestinus, who describes marriage as "the joining of a
male and a female, and a partnership in their entire lives, a sharing of divine and human law." Modestinus dates
to around A.D. 230, one of the last classical Roman jurists. Noteworthy is the jurist's stress on sex: the union,
not "of a man and a woman," but "of a male and a female" (coniunctio maris et feminae).
This description of marriage implies that the jurists, had they ever been faced with serious inquiry as to whether
same-sex marriages were valid, would quite probably have answered in definitional terms, that marriage was
"inter-sexual" by its nature; and that attempts to effect a same-sex marriage were therefore necessarily without
legal consequence. It is therefore improbable that same-sex marriage ceremonies could have led to legally valid
marriages in Roman law. Nor, to the best of our knowledge, was any such claim ever made in antiquity.
The Marriage Ceremony "Floats Free"
But the legal invalidity of Roman same-sex marriage ceremonies only deepens the mystery; for we are left with
the further problem of determining what, then, the participants in such ceremonies were trying to accomplish.
The common modern view that these ceremonies were only a sham or parody might seem appealing when
applied to Nero, whose contempt for the stuffiness of Roman upper-class traditions was legendary. But this
view is less attractive when we consider Martial and especially Juvenal, whose complaint is precisely not that
the participants in same-sex marriage ceremonies were directly and deliberately mocking Roman mores. On the
contrary, what appears to offend especially the arch-conservative Juvenal is precisely that the participants take
the ceremonies all too seriously. Their sobriety of intent leads Juvenal to rail that the gods, through the
complicitous silence of their failure to rain down retribution, have already forsaken Rome.
Still, it is a mistake, I feel, to treat these Roman ceremonies as closely comparable to modern commitment
ceremonies, which serve as an expressly non-legal means for same-sex partners publicly to undertake a longterm personal relationship patterned after legal marriage, and which are often adapted to a considerable extent
from "inter-sexual" marriage ceremonies. Although long-term commitment is doubtless implied by the Roman
same-sex wedding ceremonies, what remains far more unusual about them is their absolute and undeviating
fidelity to the form of the traditional ceremony, despite potentially grotesque aspects of the result. What needs

explanation, therefore, is why this fidelity to tradition was so important.

Especially because surviving sources on Roman same-sex weddings are hostile to the practice, we will never
understand it from the internal perspective of the participants. Nonetheless, a possible avenue to fuller
understanding may be to follow the emphasis of our sources, who repeatedly stress, not that Roman same-sex
couples are entering into marriage-like unions, but that they are using traditional marriage rituals; it is the use of
the wedding ceremony, and not the union itself, that occasions scorn or outrage. But it is precisely in this area
that Roman marriage law differs most signally from its modern counterpart.
Today, most legal systems require a certain process before marriage. This process typically unfolds in two
stages: the couple must first obtain a marriage license (the government uses this license to make sure the couple
are legally capable of marriage and also to establish an official record); and then they must solemnize their
marriage through a formal ceremony conducted by a designated civil or religious authority. Law is therefore
deeply implicated in the process whereby marriage occurs.
By contrast, Roman law is almost altogether lacking in formal process requirements. No prescribed ceremonies
or formalities of any kind were legally necessary in order to create a valid Roman marriage. First, the
government did not have any sort of licensing procedure, nor did it even provide a means for registering
marriages. In principle, therefore, marriage was largely a private arrangement occurring outside the purview of
state authority, although, of course, the government reserved the right to declare supposed marriages null and
void after the fact. Second, the Roman jurists and emperors alike also emphasize that no formality or marriage
ceremony of any kind was required for a legal marriage. Indeed, not even cohabitation or sexual consummation
was required.
From a modern perspective, the lack of required formalities is certainly the single most distinctive feature of
Roman marriage; public supervision and record of the process is entirely missing. The problem that the Romans
then faced, however, was that, in the absence of formalities, there was no obvious means to determine the exact
onset of legitimate marriage. For example, it often was necessary to determine whether, in a given case, a
relationship between a couple was, at some specific point in time, actually a marriage, rather than, for instance,
simply a long-term extramarital affair; and this problem became especially acute after adultery was criminalized
in the early Empire.
To solve the problem, the jurists created an informal substitute for legal formalities. They required that the
couple at least exhibit, in their relationship, public and private conduct consistent with the existence of a
marriage. Several jurists describe this requirement as affectio maritalis, literally "marital affection." In practice,
this amounts to a somewhat vague demand for evidence that the couple are treating one another as spouses. The
requirement could be satisfied in many ways. For instance, the existence of a marriage could be inferred from
such facts as the relative social positions of the two parties, their cohabitation in the husband's home, other
indicators of the conduct of their domestic life, and the general repute of their marriage among their families or
in the neighborhood.

At least among the Roman upper classes, undoubtedly the most frequently used form of evidence for marital
intent was the occurrence of a marriage ceremony complete with an engagement, private marriage documents,
and the provision of a dowry for the bride, what the jurists briefly refer to as the deductio of the bride into her
husband's house. Nonetheless, because such rituals were only loosely connected to the legal inception of
marriage, a possibility arose that is scarcely conceivable in the modern world: the full wedding ceremony and
the ensuing cohabitation could be, in effect, culturally detached from the legal institution of marriage. If this
happened, the marriage ceremony could then be used in ways that invoked the more general social implications
or the imagery of weddings, even though the parties themselves did not thereby intend to create, and were not
understood by others to be creating, an actual marriage. In short, the Roman marriage ceremony may have
"floated free" from the legal institution of marriage, in a fashion and to a degree that may today seem quite
That this hypothesis is not far-fetched is shown by an incident roughly
contemporary with Nero's same-sex marriages. It occurred in A.D. 47.
Messalina, the dissolute wife of the Emperor Claudius, entered into a
conspiracy with a Roman nobleman named Gaius Silius. It appears that
they aimed to overthrow Claudius. Their plot came to fruition while
Claudius was off attending to official duties in Ostia, Rome's port city.
As Tacitus and other sources report, Messalina married Silius in a
ceremony complete with auspices and sacrifices to the gods, the
customary wedding garments, a wedding banquet, and a dowry.
Although some scholars have expressed doubts, Tacitus is emphatic in
stating this wedding ceremony in fact occurred:
"Messalina was attracted by the idea of marriage (to Silius) because of
its sheer outrageousness, a last resort in which a wastrel takes pleasure.
So, waiting only until Claudius went off to Ostia for a sacrifice, she celebrated all the rituals of marriage. To
some, I know, it will seem incredible that in a city where everything is known and nothing kept secret, any
persons could have felt themselves so secure; and far more incredible that, on the appointed day and before
invited witnesses, the Consul Designate (Silius) joined with the Emperor's wife nominally 'for the purpose of
raising children'; and she attended to the taking of auspices, put on the bridal veil, and sacrificed to the gods;
and they lay among their guests, embracing and kissing, and then spent the night in marital passion. But what I
write is no invention to amaze my readers, but only what my elders heard and wrote down." (Annales 11.26.327.)
The marriage of Messalina and Silius is impossible to comprehend by the usual standards of Roman private law.
Since (our sources insist on this) Messalina had not first divorced Claudius, she was still legally married to him
at the time; the jurists usually require at least an effort at conveying a repudiation to the divorced spouse. But of
course we are not in the ordinary realm of Roman law. Messalina's marriage to Silius was evidently in itself an
act of high treason, the effective proclamation of a coup against Claudius. What is significant is that a marriage
ceremony was the vehicle used to mount this strange coup.
In this case, the wedding ceremony appears as detached from the institution of legitimate marriage. And yet, in
context, significant connotations of marriage have been borrowed and creatively refashioned. The wedding of
Silius and Messalina expresses a political union that is apparently meant to evoke the emotional aspects of
marriage. Tacitus' clear outrage at such a misappropriation of the traditional marriage ceremony clearly
resembles, as well, the outrage of Juvenal and other authors regarding the same-sex weddings.
Property and Procreation
How is it that the legal institution of marriage (iustae nuptiae, "legitimate marriage") became detached in this
fashion from the social institution of marriage, including the wedding ceremonies that usually marked its
initiation? I have already suggested an answer: the Roman government, for whatever reasons, declined to
oversee the process of marriage through licensing or even through registration, so that marriage arose as a
largely private event outside of government scrutiny. But a deeper answer to the question can perhaps be

obtained by examining two other prominent aspects of the Roman law of marriage: its limited effects on the
property holdings of spouses, and its uneasy relationship to procreation as an intrinsic aim of marriage.
First, as to property, modern advocates of same-sex marriage are complexly motivated not just by their wish
that homosexual couples be recognized as socially and legally acceptable, but also by their desire to acquire
important rights and privileges that law bestows only on married partners. In modern law, such rights and
privileges are numerous and exceptionally important to the exercise of joint life; they include, for instance,
shared estates, tax advantages, access to spousal health care, and so on. These are the legal "incidents" of
marriage, and in some instances their absence can have extremely harsh consequences for homosexual couples.
Classical Roman law could not be more different. The classical form of marriage had few personal
consequences for the couple, in the main because it was so easy to dissolve. Like the process of marriage,
divorce was entirely unregulated by the State; either party could leave the marriage at any time, the only
requirement being that notice to the other party first be given or at least attempted. Because marriage was such a
fragile institution, community of property was not imposed by law. The two partners preserved their separate
estates throughout marriage, and while married they were unable even to co-mingle their assets through gifts.
During marriage, a wife did not take the name of her husband. She remained legally within the family of her
birth, and at no time was she subject to the domestic power of her husband. Remarkably, a wife had no legal
claim on her husband for maintenance; nor was state-ordered alimony available after divorce.
In modern law, marital rights and privileges are intended to encourage the formation of traditional families; and
divorce is also legally regulated in part to discourage the overhasty dissolution of these families, though in
recent decades this goal has markedly declined in importance. The Roman law of marriage lacked both these
purposes, except to the extent that the marriage legislation of Augustus bestowed some indirect material benefits
on persons who were married.
Under these circumstances, it is worth asking what legitimate Roman marriage was for. The answer to this
question is easily given. In Rome, as in pre-modern societies generally, the traditional institution of marriage
was closely tied to procreation, the bearing and raising of legitimate children as heirs to the husband. Rome
itself provides considerable evidence for the existence of this age-old link. From a legal perspective, as has
often been observed, the primary purpose, or at least the primary consequence, of legitimate marriage was
precisely to legitimize the offspring of such marriages. The centrality of the association was brought into much
sharper focus by Augustus' family legislation, a series of statutes that fostered marriage and the bearing of
children as a matter of public policy, and also discouraged extra-marital sex.
The close connection between marriage and childbearing obviously helps to explain the comments of Roman
authors who react negatively to same-sex marriage ceremonies. Nonetheless, as scholars on Roman marriage
have often noted, Roman sources suggest that at least among the upper classes belief in the procreative purposes
of marriage had waned during the early Empire, in favor of more individualistic conceptions of marriage
emphasizing social and sexual companionship between husband and wife as at least an equally important goal.
This drift in conceptions of marriage is not a simple progression; at any time in the early Empire, our sources
express a range of opinion on the nature of marriage. Still, it is important to note that funeral epitaphs display
much the same range of opinion, indicating that intellectuals may reasonably well represent the views of the
upper classes.
For their part, although the Roman jurists clearly accept the pronatalist policies of the Caesars, their acceptance
does not translate into a narrow association of marriage with procreation. Further, the Roman law of legitimate
marriage remains predominantly retrospective in its application, to an extent that may surprise a modern
observer. Rather as with the older forms of common law marriage, the existence of a legitimate marriage in any
specific case is largely determined after the fact, when a couple is already established but a related question has
arisen about, for instance, dividing property between the couple or determining the legitimacy of their offspring.

Of course, Roman couples, when entering into marriage, were doubtless usually aware of the legal requirements
for marriage; but these requirements were not nearly so strongly foregrounded as in modern marriage.
There is, then, a curious lack of fit here: while the wedding ceremony emphatically looks forward to the
creation of a marriage, Roman marriage law usually looks backward, upon a putative marriage that, much more
often than not, has already ended when question about its validity arises. In this respect, the social institution of
marriage, and in particular the ceremonies that initiated a marriage, to a large extent float free of the legal
institution B a situation that is especially awkward because legitimate marriage existed in uneasy competition
with other socially recognized forms of coupling, such as concubinage. In short, a Roman couple, if queried as
to whether they were married, might have responded, in complete good faith, that they were married (in the
social sense) even though their union would predictably not have survived a legal challenge.
It is precisely this ambiguity that may be responsible for much of the angry defensiveness with which authors
such as Tacitus and Juvenal criticize appropriations of the Roman wedding ceremony for purposes other than
traditional marriages. Nor is it unreasonable to suppose that the participants in such ceremonies were well aware
they would provoke widespread hostility. Indeed, it may even be fair to posit that these same-sex ceremonies
were intended, at least in part, as deliberately subversive of the traditional social institution of marriage B yet
another indicator of the extraordinary intellectual ferment characterizing the imperial city of Rome during the
first century A.D.

Straight Talk About Gay Marriage in Ancient Rome

The Perils of Precedent
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, The Roses of Heliogabalus (1888)

Within the next few weeks, gay marriage will become legal in the United States. A Supreme
Court ruling is expected by June 22, and in the wake of Irelands legalization of it by popular
vote on May 23, the outcome of the US ruling seems assured. While its fate still nominally hangs
in the balance, however, some justices have been hinting at combative views in advance. And for
better or for worse, theyre making headlines.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg made her support clear when she recently presided over a gay wedding.
Shortly before that, Samuel Alito was ridiculed for reportedly comparing gay marriage to Greek
pederasty and asking whether legalizing it will open the door to legal polygamy. Many others,
supporters and opponents alike, have wondered about that connection, too (e.g. here, here, here,
and here).
Since Alito has raised the question of ancient precedents, we can follow his lead and consider the
two issuesgay marriage and legal polygamyin tandem. If our fellow citizens are going to
appeal to the practices of millennia past to decide gay marriage for us today, whether to support
or to oppose it, Classicists had better make sure they know what those practices wereand were
not. If theyre wrong, they risk generating a false equivalence between Rome and America and

hence a bad reason for legitimating or prohibiting social arrangements, a domain in which
custom tends to rule.
The despotism of custom, remarked John Stuart Mill (18061873),
is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement, being in unceasing
antagonism to that disposition to aim at something better than customary, which is
called, according to circumstances, the spirit of liberty, or that of progress or
improvement. Custom is there, in all things, the final appeal; justice and right
mean conformity to custom; the argument of custom no one, unless some tyrant
intoxicated with power, thinks of resisting.

The Classics do have real, lasting cultural currency, of course, and as I have argued before,
ancient precedents can be very useful to think with todayprovided we have a clear grasp of the
facts; otherwise, they can wreak havoc. And since abiding by precedent is a bedrock principle of
American law, a look at the reality of gay marriage in ancient Rome offers us a chance to reflect
on the risks of appealing to the ancient world for settling modern social questions. That look,
moreover, brings into view some interesting new complexities, since in ancient Rome it seems
the offensive thing was not gay marriage but the gay wedding ceremony (or the wedding
ceremony where one participant is transgender).
Lets set the record straight: there was no gay marriage in ancient Rome. The law made no
provision for it. Still, the internet is rife with sites that say otherwise, claiming the practice was
alive and well in Rome and citing the same few examples of gay marriage in the earlier
empire that scholars have long known about.
These anecdotes and textsthe marriage of Nero to Sporus, Juvenals second satire, an epigram
by Martial, Plautus Casina arent relevant to the subject of gay marriage. They do tell tales of
wedding ceremonies between two men, but a wedding is not a marriage and a party is not a legal
contract. None holds up under scrutiny as an instance of ancient Roman gay marriage.

The first example of gay marriage in Rome held aloft by supporters and opponents of gay
marriage alike is that of the emperor Nero (3768 CE), who married a man named Sporus after
his wife died. The historian Cassius Dio (c. 155235) tells the tale (28.2ff):
Nero missed her [Poppaea, his wife] so greatly after her death that on learning of a
woman who resembled her he at first sent for her and kept her; but later he caused
a boy of the freedmen, whom he used to call Sporus, to be castrated, since he, too,
resembled Sabina, and he used him in every way like a wife. In due time, though

already married to Pythagoras, a freedman, he formally married Sporus, and

assigned the boy a regular dowry according to contract; and the Romans as well as
others publicly celebrated their wedding.
While Nero had Sporus, the eunuch, as a wife, one of his associates in Rome, who
had made a study of philosophy, on being asked whether the marriage and
cohabitation in question met with his approval, replied: You do well, Caesar, to seek
the company of such wives. Would that your father had had the same ambition and
had lived with a similar consort!indicating that if this had been the case, Nero
would not have been born, and the state would now be free of great evils.

Suetonius (c. 69-after 122), historian and biographer of early Roman emperors, tells a version of
the same story (28):
He [Nero] castrated the boy Sporus and actually tried to make a woman of him; and
he married him with all the usual ceremonies, including a dowry and a bridal veil,
took him to his house attended by a great throng, and treated him as his wife. And
the witty jest that someone made is still current, that it would have been well for
the world if Neros father Domitius had had that kind of wife. This Sporus, decked
out with the finery of the empresses and riding in a litter, he took with him to the
assizes and marts of Greece, and later at Rome through the Street of the Images,
fondly kissing him from time to time.

Taken at face value, this text tells us in no uncertain terms that Nero was married to another man
or boybut should it be taken at face value? Sporus means semen in Greek, so it might be
prudent to wonder whether this anecdote represents reality (as some historians assume) or
whether it might originate in the mime or some other form of bawdy popular entertainment.
This distortion would have good precedent; it happened to the Greek lyric poet Sappho, whose
purported husband, Kerkylos of Andros (Mr. Prick from the Isle of Man), originates in Greek
Comedy. And there is another reason for skepticism. It does not seem to have occurred to Dio or
Suetonius that in marrying Sporus, Nero (or a caricature of him), the famous fiddler, was
consciously imitating Orpheus, the lyre player extraordinaire of mythology. The Augustan poet
Ovid tells us that upon the loss of his wife Eurydice, Orpheus shunned intercourse with women
in favor of homosexual relations (Metamorphoses 10.7885). Hence even if the wedding
between Nero and Sporus did occur, Edward Champlin is surely right that Nero himself meant
the whole thing as a joke, timed to match the Saturnalia.
At any rate, it is even more problematic to suppose thats wrong and that the episode is real and
that it was meant in earnest, because in that case Neros marriage to Sporus stands to real
marriage as sexual intercourse between consenting adults does to prison rape. Nero was the
supreme chancellor of an authoritarian state, with inducements or coercions to dole out as he

wished. In this context, Sporus ability to grant or withhold consent is meaningless. (Neither Dio
nor Suetonius mentions whether Sporus agreed to be castrated, either.)
Real or fictitious, the anecdote has no place in a discussion of gay marriage as we know it. To
think of it as analogous to two consenting men or women wanting to get married in twenty-first
century America is to make a category error, like calling a whale a fish. As a whale is not a fish,
Neros purported castration of and marriage to Sporus is not an example of gay marriage.

Unlike the stories about Nero, other texts held up as examples of gay marriage in ancient Rome
depict both partners consenting to the union fully. The problem with these relationships for the
Latin authors who tell us about them lies, however, not in an abuse of power but in the upsetting
of traditional gender roles.
Consider Juvenals second satire. In it, we are told, one Gracchusa name with aristocratic
connotations, like Kennedywedded a horn dog (cornicenliterally, a horn player, but
the pun is as deliberate in Latin as in English). Gracchus provided the dowry, which makes him
the wife, and the marriage was celebrated in the usual fashion (11920):
Papers were signed, Yay! was shouted, a huge
receptions waiting, the weird (novaa pun, since it also means new) bride lay in
his husbands lap.

Juvenal finds the thought an abomination and continues (1246),

The same man who sweat it out in combat while
duly wielding sacred implements
is putting on ruffles and a dress and a veil!

Whereas Neros marriage resembled prison rape, not gay marriage, Juvenals revulsion is
rooted in transphobia. The poet is disgusted by the idea that Gracchus, who had formerly acted in
a manner befitting a Roman man, has voluntarily become a wife. His anger at Gracchus calls
to mind the scorn poured on Bruce Jenner in recent months.

Of course the cases are not identical; Jenner remains attracted to women, whereas many men in
ancient Rome were never attracted exclusively to women to begin with. All the same, it is
Gracchus adoption of feminine clothing and a womans sexual role that upsets Juvenal. And if
Gracchus did identify as female (as the third-century emperor Elagabalus is sometimes thought
to have done), then calling her wedding a gay marriage makes for a second category error.
The last piece of evidence for Roman gay marriage, Martial 12.42, tells a similar tale:
Bearded Callistratus became the bride of (nupsit) taut Afer
by the same rite (hac qua lege) that maidens (virgo) and husbands (vir) do:
Torches lit their way, a veil draped his face,
And your words didnt fail you either, Talassus.
Even a dowry was declared. Rome! Arent you
satisfied yet? Whatare you waiting for him to give birth, too?

Martials point is the same as Juvenals. It brings to mind Plautus Casina, which is set in Greece
but performed in Rome. The play ends (in a bawdy scene that probably stems from popular
farce) with a groom tricked into marrying a false bride, another man who has stolen into the
bedchamber after the wedding and surprises her husband.

One point that Plautus, Martial, and Juvenal have in common is that each says one of the two
men getting married dresses as a bride for the ceremony. If the weddings celebrate relationships
between one transgender and one cisgender individual, that makes sense. If they dont, the
depiction suggests parody or metaphor rather than reality, as a famous ESPN cover from 1999

Mike Ditka, then coach of the New Orleans Saints, and his newly drafted running
back, Ricky Williams (source:

But that scenario doesnt match the reality of gay marriage as we know it in most cases.

None of these texts makes more than passing reference to the couple living life together after
their wedding ceremony. The confusion between wedding and marriage is pervasive and its due
in part to language, which brings us to the question of polygamy.
It is commonly said that legalizing gay marriage opens the door for legalizing polygamy. At first
blush this may seem reasonable, as though expanding the definition of marriage as between one
man and one woman to include marriage between two men or two women would remove barriers
to state sanction of other nontraditional relationships. On consideration, however, it seems to do
the opposite. In my view, legalizing gay marriage would shut the door on legal polygamy, firmly
and decisively so, because it would confirm the governments support of monogamous
relationships. If that strikes you as a paradox, consider how Schopenhauer viewed the matter.
Arthur Schopenhauer (17881860) was one of historys great observers of human conduct.
Though rarely studied today, his influence on Nietzsche, Freud, Einstein, J. D. Salinger, and
countless others is a matter of record. Classicists should all readnay, trumpethis essay on
the value of learning Latin. The text I am about to quote from is not that gem, however; it is part
of the radioactive essay that, late in life, he devoted to his views of women. (Its a text I dont
think anyone should trumpet.)

There can be no argument about polygamy, wrote Schopenhauer in 1851:

It is useless to argue about polygamy, it must be taken as a fact existing
everywhere, the mere regulation of which is the problem to be solved. Where are
there, then, any real monogamists? We all live, at any rate for a time, and the
majority of us always, in polygamy. Consequently, as each man needs many
women, nothing is more just than to let him, nay, make it incumbent upon him to
provide for many women. The Mormons standpoint is right.

Schopenhauer is drawing a distinction that is familiar to all of us who read Thucydides. Logos
and ergon, res and verbum, name and thing, rhetoric and reality. They often dont line up.
Monogamy refers to a sexual relationship but polygamy refers to a conjugal (legal, social) one.
Schopenhauer forces us to confront that ambiguity and the values we attach to it. His solution
perhaps offered in jestis to institutionalize polygamy among men and women, and force men
to take care of all the women theyre sleeping with. The obvious corollary is to institutionalize
gay marriage, because in doing so the state would demonstrate that it values monogamy among
gay men and women as highly as it values monogamy among straight men and women. If we put
it in Schopenhauers terms, a vote by the state against gay marriage is a tacit vote by the state
sanctioning gay polygamy.
Just as monogamy refers to a sexual relationship but polygamy to a conjugal (legal, social) one,
so in English does getting married make us think of a weddinga party, with flowers and a
cakewhereas marriage ought to make us think of a legal relationship. Galeatum sero duelli
paenitet, warns Juvenal. If you are thinking of getting married, you would do well to distinguish
weddings from marriages, ceremonies from contracts, before you do. They arent the same thing,
although they sometimes sound like it. That is one reason bakers and florists have been
boycotted for refusing to bake cakes or provide flowers for gay weddings, though we do not hear
of them refusing gay couples their services on other occasions.
This confusion brings us back to Roman law. Marriage in ancient Rome was forever aimed at
producing legitimate children for the state. Other sexual relationships were surely common, but a
gay partnership was not one of those the state dignified with legal recognition. Scholars
sometimes point to a text in the Theodosian Code that condemns the seeming practice of when a
man becomes a womans bride (cum vir nubit in feminamwhatever that means) to maintain
that gay marriagesthey mean weddings, but say marriageswere actually happening in
Rome. Here it is (9.7.3, dated to 342 CE):
Impp. Constantius et Constans aa. ad populum. Cum vir nubit in feminam, femina
viros proiectura quid cupiat, ubi sexus perdidit locum, ubi scelus est id, quod non
proficit scire, ubi venus mutatur in alteram formam, ubi amor quaeritur nec videtur,
iubemus insurgere leges, armari iura gladio ultore, ut exquisitis poenis subdantur

infames, qui sunt vel qui futuri sunt rei. Dat. prid. non. dec. Mediolano, proposita
Romae XVII kal. ianuar. Constantio III et Constante II aa. conss. (342 dec. 4).

Unfortunately, the first part of this text is unintelligible and the only way to fix the Latin is to
presuppose what it means. The first two clauses are obviously corrupt, probably in several places
(nubit could be cubit, in feminam could be infamem, viros could be viro or viris, proiectura could
be pro iactura or porrectura[m], and so onforever), and we cant even tell if its supposed to
be a statement or an indignant question. All we can tell is that whatever the behavior is, the law
definitely doesnt like itand definitely doesnt sanction it.

Stare decisis, abiding by precedent, is the cornerstone of American law. When we have
precedents to abide by, it works well. If we dont and were tempted to cast our net wider, to see
how ancient societies that seem like ours did or might have settled modern social questions, we
had better have a clear understanding of what those precedents are.
Ancient Rome offers no precedent for gay marriage, just as it offered no precedent for the
abolition of slavery or the emancipation of women. Juvenal, Martial, Plautusthose texts are
fascinating witnesses to transgender women or transphobia, while Neros purported abuse of
Sporus is a monument to power unchecked. You should read them allbut dont forget they
have nothing to do with gay marriage.
It is a mistake to classify a whale as a fish. As a whale is not a fish, gay marriage in ancient
Rome is not gay marriage today.
Whatever the Supreme Court decides over the coming weeks, therefore, one hopes that the
personal relationships of ancient Roman women and men wont be relevant, and that the personal
relationships of American men and women will.

Michael Fontaine is Associate Professor of Classics and Associate Dean of the Faculty at Cornell
University, where he teaches courses on Latin literature and Roman society. His newest book is
Joannes Burmeister: Aulularia and Other Inversions of Plautus. Read more of his work here.
The 19 Best Lines From the Supreme Court Decision That Just Legalized Gay

Justice Kennedy's majority opinion is a love letter to marriageand gay

By David Corn
| Fri Jun. 26, 2015 11:01 AM EDT



Jacquelyn Martin/AP

In a historic move, the Supreme Court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, legalized gay marriage
throughout the United States, declaring that the constitutional principle of equal protection
overwhelms any state or local bans on same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a.k.a. Mr.
Swing Vote, penned the majority decision that was joined by the four court liberals, and the
opinion is a paean to marriage, with Kennedy passionately describing the benefits and

significance of marriage and maintaining that same-sex couples can in no way, under the
Constitution, be excluded from this fundamental institution. Here are the best passages from his
historic opinion:
The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific
rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.

The centrality of marriage to the human condition makes it unsurprising that the institution has
existed for millennia and across civilizations. Since the dawn of history, marriage has
transformed strangers into relatives, binding families and societies together. Confucius taught
that marriage lies at the foundation of government. 2 Li Chi: Book of Rites 266 (C. Chai & W.
Chai eds., J. Legge transl. 1967).

To [gay marriage foes], [same-sex marriage] would demean a timeless institution if the concept
and lawful status of marriage were extended to two persons of the same sex. Marriage, in their
view, is by its nature a gender-differentiated union of man and woman. This view long has been
heldand continues to be heldin good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and
throughout the world.
The petitioners acknowledge this history but contend that these cases cannot end there. Were
their intent to demean the revered idea and reality of marriage, the petitioners claims would be
of a different order. But that is neither their purpose nor their submission. To the contrary, it is
the enduring importance of marriage that underlies the petitioners contentions. This, they say, is
their whole point. Far from seeking to devalue marriage, the petitioners seek it for themselves
because of their respectand needfor its privileges and responsibilities. And their immutable
nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.
* * *
Recounting the circumstances of three of these cases illustrates the urgency of the petitioners
cause from their perspective. Petitioner James Obergefell, a plaintiff in the Ohio case, met John
Arthur over two decades ago. They fell in love and started a life together, establishing a lasting,
committed relation. In 2011, however, Arthur was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,
or ALS. This debilitating disease is progressive, with no known cure. Two years ago, Obergefell
and Arthur decided to commit to one another, resolving to marry before Arthur died. To fulfill
their mutual promise, they traveled from Ohio to Maryland, where same-sex marriage was legal.
It was difficult for Arthur to move, and so the couple were wed inside a medical transport plane
as it remained on the tarmac in Baltimore. Three months later, Arthur died. Ohio law does not

permit Obergefell to be listed as the surviving spouse on Arthurs death certificate. By statute,
they must remain strangers even in death, a state-imposed separation Obergefell deems hurtful
for the rest of time. App. in No. 14556 etc., p. 38. He brought suit to be shown as the surviving
spouse on Arthurs death certificate.

The ancient origins of marriage confirm its centrality, but it has not stood in isolation from
developments in law and society. The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change.
That institutioneven as confined to opposite-sex relationshas evolved over time.
For example, marriage was once viewed as an arrangement by the couples parents based on
political, religious, and financial concerns; but by the time of the Nations founding it was
understood to be a voluntary contract between a man and a woman. See N. Cott, Public Vows: A
History of Marriage and the Nation 917 (2000); S. Coontz, Marriage, A History 1516 (2005).

Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, no State shall deprive any person
of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. The fundamental liberties protected by
this Clause include most of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. See Duncan v. Louisiana,
391 U. S. 145, 147149 (1968). In addition these liberties extend to certain personal choices
central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal
identity and beliefs. See, e.g., Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U. S. 438, 453 (1972); Griswold v.
Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479, 484486 (1965). The identification and protection of fundamental
rights is an enduring part of the judicial duty to interpret the Constitution.

The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that
wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the
extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter
protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight
reveals discord between the Constitutions central protections and a received legal stricture, a
claim to liberty must be addressed.
In Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1, 12 (1967), which invalidated bans on interracial unions, a
unanimous Court held marriage is one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit
of happiness by free men. The Court reaffirmed that holding in Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U. S.
374, 384 (1978), which held the right to marry was burdened by a law prohibiting fathers who
were behind on child support from marrying. The Court again applied this principle in Turner v.

Safley, 482 U. S. 78, 95 (1987), which held the right to marry was abridged by regulations
limiting the privilege of prison inmates to marry. Over time and in other contexts, the Court has
reiterated that the right to marry is fundamental under the Due Process Clause.

The Court, like many institutions, has made assumptions defined by the world and time of which
it is a part. This was evident in Baker v. Nelson, 409 U. S. 810, a one-line summary decision
issued in 1972, holding the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage did not present a
substantial federal question.

A first premise of the Courts relevant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding
marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. This abiding connection between
marriage and liberty is why Loving invalidated interracial marriage bans under the Due Process

The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other
freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever
their sexual orientation.

As all parties agree, many same-sex couples provide loving and nurturing homes to their
children, whether biological or adopted. And hundreds of thousands of children are presently
being raised by such couples. See Brief for Gary J. Gates as Amicus Curiae 4. Most States have
allowed gays and lesbians to adopt, either as individuals or as couples, and many adopted and
foster children have same-sex parents, see id., at 5. This provides powerful confirmation from the
law itself that gays and lesbians can create loving, supportive families.
Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to
marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer
the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material
costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more
difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the
children of same-sex couples.
* * *
Same-sex couples are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would deem

intolerable in their own lives. As the State itself makes marriage all the more precious by the
significance it attaches to it, exclusion from that status has the effect of teaching that gays and
lesbians are unequal in important respects. It demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock
them out of a central institution of the Nations society. Same-sex couples, too, may aspire to the
transcendent purposes of marriage and seek fulfillment in its highest meaning.

Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and
honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged
here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes enacted law and public policy, the
necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon
demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied. Under the Constitution, samesex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would
disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right.

[T]he right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the
Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the samesex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. The Court now holds that same-sex couples
may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them.

There may be an initial inclination in these cases to proceed with cautionto await further
legislation, litigation, and debate. The respondents warn there has been insufficient democratic
discourse before deciding an issue so basic as the definition of marriage. In its ruling on the cases
now before this Court, the majority opinion for the Court of Appeals made a cogent argument
that it would be appropriate for the respondents States to await further public discussion and
political measures before licensing same-sex marriages. See DeBoer, 772 F. 3d, at 409.
Yet there has been far more deliberation than this argument acknowledges. There have been
referenda, legislative debates, and grassroots campaigns, as well as countless studies, papers,
books, and other popular and scholarly writings.
* * *
The dynamic of our constitutional system is that individuals need not await legislative action
before asserting a fundamental right. The Nations courts are open to injured individuals who
come to them to vindicate their own direct, personal stake in our basic charter. An individual can

invoke a right to constitutional protection when he or she is harmed, even if the broader public
disagrees and even if the legislature refuses to act.

The respondents also argue allowing same-sex couples to wed will harm marriage as an
institution by leading to fewer opposite-sex marriages. This may occur, the respondents contend,
because licensing same-sex marriage severs the connection between natural procreation and
marriage. That argument, however, rests on a counterintuitive view of opposite-sex couples
decisionmaking processes regarding marriage and parenthood. Decisions about whether to marry
and raise children are based on many personal, romantic, and practical considerations; and it is
unrealistic to conclude that an opposite-sex couple would choose not to marry simply because
same-sex couples may do so.
* * *
Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may
continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage
should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons
are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central
to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they
have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In
turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a
matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view
in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar
same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex.
* * *
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity,
devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater
than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a
love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they
disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they
seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in
loneliness, excluded from one of civilizations oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in
the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click
here. He's also on Twitter and Facebook. RSS | Twitter
David Corn
Washington Bureau Chief

Why didnt the ancient world permit samesex marriage?

Jeff Kay,
Which ancient world are you talking about? The question covers a great deal of
time and geography.
I'm going to go one better on Ernest W. Adams's answer. In most societies,
marriage was partly about children, but it was actually more political than that.
Many cultures in the Middle East allowed for multiple partners, both men and
women. Sometimes those partners were slaves, sometimes they were bonded by
In Egypt, the acceptance of homosexuality is vague. Only a few documents provide
a glimpse and even those have been disputed. However, since homosexuality is
relatively common among humans, it's safe to assume it was just as common in
Egypt. That, and the fact that there is little in the way of documentation indicates

the practice wasn't all that unusual, and that there wasn't a proscription against it.
But marriage in Egypt was important to produce an heir, and especially in the
higher ranks, including the Pharaoh. Regardless of sexual preferences, one still
needed a son to carry on the name.
In Greece, homosexuality is a well documented fact of life. In Spartan society, boys
and young men were expected to form very close bonds during their youth. It
wasn't until a young man was able to prove he was a man that he was allowed to
marry a woman. In many cases, these boyhood bonds lasted for life. Alexander III
of Macedon (Alexander the Great) had a very close relationship with Hephaestion,
one of his generals and a bodyguard. Hephaestion's death devastated Alexander,
and may have led to his failing health and eventual death. Alexander did marry
twice, but they were for political reasons, and had 2 sons.
Sappho of Lesbos, a famous Greek poet, wrote mostly on womanly love. While we
don't know much about her life, the acclaims she received from other Greeks and
Romans is reason enough to believe that a lesbian lifestyle was not unheard or
disapproved of.
Romans were no different when it came to marriage and homosexuality. Attitudes of
the time allowed for men to consort with other men, especially slaves and
entertainers. The marked preference was especially for young men and boys. But,
again, marriage was a political affair.
When you discuss marriage now and in ancient times, you have to understand that
the definition is completely different. Judeo-Christian attitudes toward marriage are
almost strictly male/female and only single pairs (with some exceptions being the
Mormons), while in the Muslim world, multiple wives is fully acceptable. Marriage,
either secular or non secular, is an emotional and personal affair, and children may
or may not be a priority, since many couples voluntarily elect not to procreate.
Marriage in the ancient world, as I've stated, was more political. It was to bring
together two families and their fortunes, and provide allies during times of
upheaval, which happened often. A man could have a single wife, but many
consorts of both genders, depending on his social status, but even low ranking
citizens married with political reasons in mind, if for nothing than to try climbing the
social ladder.
The attempt here to equate marriage between two completely different times fails
to take into account that human morals and cultures evolve over time. While
marriage today can still be a political affair, considering the social and financial
benefits granted to married couples, the definition and expectations are wildly
different. Even the Christian attitude toward same sex couples has changed
drastically over time, and the current morals differ significantly from those early