Gay Marriage: A Rite That Should Be a Right

President Obama, I applaud you, sir, for the big ballsy, brave step you took by “coming out” in support of marriage equality for gay couples. Your Republican opponent Mitt Romney has, of course, come out in opposition to it. Romney has stated that he believes marriage should be between “one man and one woman.” Romney, who is of the Mormon faith, of all people should know that church beliefs can, and should, evolve over time. After all, at one time a statement of his own beliefs may have sounded more like this:  “Marriage should be between one man and his women.

It is not a secret that I consider Romney to be an absolute “vote whore”.  One willing to flip on just about any issue he thinks will sway more voters his way; but on the issue of gay marriage, I am willing to bet $10,000 of his money, that he will remain consistent. Perhaps Mitt Romney’s opposition to gay marriage is based partly on his religious beliefs. Personally, I am more spiritual than religious; I do believe that one can be a follower of traditional religious tenets and still support marriage equality. Despite the official opposition stance of the (Catholic) Chuch today, apparently at one time, it too, supported and performed marriages between same gender couples.  (I know right, who knew?!)

John Boswell, a Harvard educated professor who teaches at Yale is the author of “Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe.” In this fascinating book he shares documents uncovered while researching his book which prove that throughout history, even as late as an 18th century union between two women in Dalmatia, there have been many gay unions sanctioned and performed by the church. According to Jim Duffy, a political reporter and researcher who wrote of Boswell’s discoveries in a 1998 article in the Irish Times:

The ceremonies Boswell describes had all the contemporary symbols of 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

Image: Wikimedia Commons/CCO – “Sergius and Bacchus”

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 recorded…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. 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). 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.

The Catholic Church retains control of many important historical documents; it could easily have destroyed or, at the very least, hidden these documents from the prying eyes of any diligent researcher. Yet, to date, it has not. Could it be that within its ranks there are silent but supportive priests and scholars who are self-appointed guardians of this little known truth?  One cannot say for sure, but the fact remains that these documents do exist.

Many people choose to believe that the Christian faith and the churches that profess to follow it have remained unchanged throughout the centuries. In fact, the church itself has changed. Apparently, it used to be tolerant and inclusive of all who sought to have their unions blessed by a marriage in the church. Somewhere along the way, the church’s view and its policies changed to one of bigotry and hateful intolerance of the right to pursue this rite. Consider this farce; what better way to illustrate the mockery of this rite?

I guess one thing still remains true:  there really is nothing new under the sun.


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    It is the little changes that make the most important changes.

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