Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Are There Examples of Homosexual Marriage in History?

Today's post is a continuation of the thoughts from yesterday's post.

Some people say that a few societies have experienced same-sex marriages, and that is true in a very narrow sense.  But examples are extremely rare and have typically been strange anomalies and never have been normalized as parts of society.  … Some powerful kings and rulers have taken mates of the same sex.  The most prominent example is the Roman emperor Nero, who along with marrying another man also murdered people routinely and appointed a horse to the Senate.

After extensive research throughout a large body of anthropological writings, we have only been able to find two incidents where a culture tolerated some form of same-sex “marriage.”  As you will see, these two incidents are far from what is being proposed by some activists today and far different from what marriage actually is.

*Women “marriage” in Dahomey.  In parts of West Africa in the early twentieth century, there is an anthropological report of women “marrying” other women.  But closer examination reveals the larger picture and context.  The anthropologist explains that a “
barren woman will formally marry a young girl and hand her over to her husband with a view to bearing children.”   The younger woman lives in separate quarters, and the relationship between the two women is not sexual or even emotional.  It’s a business deal.  The hiring woman, if she is not married, will pay men to have intercourse with the girl in her quarters in order to bring forth offspring.  Rules were established that if the girl runs off with one of her sires, the resultant offspring belongs to the financing woman.  These are not homosexual relationships.  They are business contracts to produce children.

*Native American Berdache.  The only other case of such same-sex “marriages” in a culture is found across Native American aboriginal tribes.  Relationships between two men were allowed where one man was seen as a berdache: a “part woman-male” or “he-she” male.  When these unions developed, they took place with wealthier males and always in the context of an already existent heterosexual--and usually polygamous--marriage that had produced children.  A berdache did not have an emotional relationship with his “husband” but was a secondary worker-spouse.  The berdache presented himself as a woman and joined the women in their work.  This change from man to woman was attributed to a special vision experienced by the berdache.

Two masculine men would never marry, and two berdache would not marry.  Their roles were never confused.  Sex between masculine males was taboo.  Sex between a male and his berdache was rare and curiously seen as either a spiritual reflection or an object of humor among other male peers.  It was never a part of normal tribal life.  Males would routinely tease and ridicule other males with berdaches because the berdaches had reputations of being highly productive workers, eager to please.  He could hunt, cook and clean.  He did not get distracted from his work with pregnancy, nursing and childcare.  The men would never tease the berdache directly, because he was not seen as a man.  Among the Mohaves, the kidding could get so bad that many men would sent their berdaches away to never return.  Long-term sexual relationships with a berdache was discouraged.  They were seen primarily as workers.  In addition, the husband-berdache relationships were notoriously unstable.  

These relationships are nothing like same-sex unions that are being proposed today.  No society has ever had anything similar to the contemporary idea of homosexual marriage.  And there are very good reasons why no society has ever done this, and these reasons are not rooted in restrictive religion or authoritarian government but in natural law.  

Glenn T. Stanton and Dr. Bill Maier, “Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting,” pg.50-52 (2004)

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