Here’s an interesting bit of trivia - in Germany, couples are married at the local courthouse, and later they might go to church to receive a blessing. That’s because 500 years ago, Luther pointed out that if Jews do it and Muslims do it, then how could marriage be a sacrament?
Excellent article, although I doubt the haters will be impressed with the footnotes.
As I understand it, the U.S. government and many states only got into the marriage business after the Civil War, in order to prevent interracial marriage. Now, as then, the politicos only care about control, not about families.
Of all the words in this article, not one denies or contradicts the idea that same-sex marriage is wrong. NONE of the author’s sources indicate any support for the idea that same-sex marriage is advisable, desirable, or even permissible. So he has written a long, involved article which does nothing but go off on a tangent from the real point of the entire argument over same-sex marriages. This kind of attempt at redirection and misrepresentation is typical of the people who argue in favor of allowing same-sex marriages. They NEVER have any arguments as to why it is right or good. Their arguments are NEVER anything but “you can’t prove your side is right”. They NEVER have anything to offer except the argument that their opponents’ ideas about marriage aren’t perfect.
Erm, you’re wrong.
Some people think same-sex marriage is wrong becasue it is perverting the idea of marriage. They say that Chritianity has forever thought of (inter-sex) marriage as an important religious institution.
This article shows that, historically, Christianity has very little to do with marriage laws. Thus, same-sex marriage cannot be wrong because of some religious idea.
As to why same-sex marriage is right or good? This hardly needs answering. You may as well ask if inter-sex marriage is “right or good”. The ability to declare your love and have it recognised by society is an important right for anyone. It allows people to have a stable relationship without having to have complex legal arrangements over inheritance or stuff like being able to see your dying lover in hospital.
Henry Tudor was betrothed to Katherine in 1503, but they didn’t marry until 1509, after his father had died and he had become king.
The article is, explicitly, about how historically nonsensical assertions about ‘traditional marriage’ are used, not ‘the entire argument’ (which would be a much longer article). As best I can tell, more or less all of it follows exactly the topic it claims it will.
More broadly, it’s worth considering that where you place the burden of proof is itself on the continuum of allowing or forbidding something. Is something to be forbidden unless it can be proven good? Or allowed unless it be demonstrated to be harmful?
One reason why comparatively little effort is put into ‘A Treatise Vindicating The Goodness Of Ye Same Sexe Marriage’ is pretty simple: There are a bunch of people out there who want to have same sex marriages. They are of sufficient age and state of mind to be able to give informed consent, and have done so. What further reason need be given?
The fact that the ‘traditional marriage’ that is allegedly being destroyed is largely a mixture of nostalgia and outright fabrication means that the alleged harm done is even less significant than stated; and it’s an interesting history piece in its own right; but even if there were, in fact, evidence that Real True Marriage has been exactly as it was in the imaginary 1950s since ~0AD, so what? The gays getting gay married hardly impinges on anyone else’s right to get straight married.
I’m very happy to see this article here and think that more historically accurate information about the history of marriage is needed.Our hazy notions of what is traditional do not hold up to actual facts about how and why people married, when in their lives they married, and what marriage meant to people.
When I was in the process of considering a divorce from my first husband, one of the most helpful things I did was to read histories of marriage in America and in the Middle Ages. What I learned is that the so called traditional notion of marriage was really a construct of the Victorian era. Throughout history there had almost always been some way for a man to divorce a woman, whether that was researching your ancestry to find out suddenly that your wife was a cousin thus nullifying the marriage or some other method. The reverse was often not true; historically, women often could not choose to divorce and if they did there were horrible economic impacts.
In different times, there were different customs about the ages when it was appropriate to marry. And, during many periods of history women had significant economic power, much of which was stripped away during the Victorian era and afterwards as the Industrial Revolution changed the ideas of a home life and cut men out of child rearing and the sphere of the home - and confined women to it.
As far as same sex marriage - I am so proud and excited to see this change in the laws happening right now. My family has many, many gay friends and it is wonderful to see not only the older couples marrying but the teenagers being able to look forward and have a place among their peers in their future.
This is a very interesting and well-researched post about the changing definitions of marriage in the Western world over the last couple of millennia. I would have appreciated a discussion of the work of John Boswell, who argued that same-sex relationships were more accepted until about the 12th century, and that the Roman and Eastern churches had rites intended to be analogous to marriage for same-sex couples. (For men, anyway. Boswell mostly ignored women’s same-sex relationships.) I am not an expert in European history, so I would be interested to know what the current thinking is on how well substantiated Boswell’s case is.
Pretty sure the author is a “she.”
Also, this article was not written to prove anything about SSM. Its thesis is that the history of marriage is being misrepresented by opponents of SSM. I thought that was obvious from the title, as well as the opening paragraphs.
On the contrary, same sex marriage advocates have always provided arguments on how marriage can benefit homosexual couples in the same way it benefits heterosexual couples: providing a stable family life and the hope that your partner will grow old with you, providing the legal framework for shared property and visitation rights, the promise of two parent homes for their children, and so on. If you believe that the hope of a long-lasting, stable and fulfilling relationship should be available to anyone, then you will want to provide the legal and social framework where gay people can aspire to that.
I did just a quick skim of the article, hopefully I can read it more fully later.
But it echoes the points I often make against those anti-gay marriage - that our modern idea of “marriage” is a relatively recent one, and that people married for everything BUT love in the past. Marriage as a cementer of property and power was a norm, as was having extra marital affairs and kids out of wed lock. Most recently I was reading about di Vinci, whose mother was of “good stock”, but never married to his father.
This was a good read with lots of interesting facts even for someone who already knew that the “traditional marriage” that opponents of same-sex marriage refer to is basically a description of what marriage was for a single generation in all of human history.
It’s a shame to see this. I think @fuzzyfungus accurately argues that there is a very good question of where the burden of proof is. Honestly, people who are in favour of same sex marriage will be able to come up with arguments all day addressing every single possible objection. But in the end, there is a significant chunk of our culture that was raised to be suspicious of or downright hostile to homosexuals and have no interest at all in re-examining that idea. All the rest of us can do is wait for the tide of history to speak on the matter and for the willful bigots to die off.
If my assessment is not accurate, if this isn’t mere bigotry, I’d be happy to hear an argument for why same sex marriage is just wrong that doesn’t, at it’s root, rely on a basic assumption that there is something wrong with homosexuality. I’ve been listening to people argue against same sex marriage for more than a decade now, and no one has ever managed to do this.
Of all the words in this comment, not one denies or contradicts the idea that opposite-sex marriage is wrong. NONE of your sources indicate any support for the idea that opposite-sex marriage is advisable, desirable, or even permissible. So you have written a long, involved comment which does nothing but go off on a tangent from the real point of the entire argument over opposite-sex marriages. This kind of attempt at redirection and misrepresentation is typical of the people who argue in favor of allowing opposite-sex marriages. They NEVER have any arguments as to why it is right or good. Their arguments are NEVER anything but “you can’t prove your side is right”. They NEVER have anything to offer except the argument that their opponents’ ideas about marriage aren’t perfect.
This is a well done article, and I’m always glad to learn new things. I’m an Episcopal clergy member. I welcome same sex couples for marriage. I’m also glad for the historical take on secular versus sacred. I’ve thought it ideal for years that clergy get out of the state marrying business…let couples get married by the state and then if they want have a religious ceremony.
Heck, when I hear people claiming that marriage has ‘always, everywhere been about X,’ they’re almost always talking about a definition of marriage and families that’s even more recent and specific - only really dating back to post-WWII America, with nuclear families, etc. The reasoning seems to be: “Well, it was like this for me, my parent and possibly my grandparents, thus it must be true throughout history and for all cultures, both of which I know nothing about.” The degree of aggressive ignorance required to make such statements is breathtaking.
Peter Lombard, the Bishop of Paris, noted in the middle of the twelfth century, if coitus were necessary to establish a marriage Mary and Joseph would not be perceived as married when Christ was born.
Clearly sex during pregnancy was unheard of in the twelfth century.
I’ve noticed a particular mindset among Americans where if we’ve done something one way for ~50 years, we see it as an unshakable tradition. That things were “always” that way for everyone, everywhere. It makes some sense since the USA isn’t even 300 years old; 50 years is a significant portion of our history.
Nice article. No huge revelations for people who have actually read about the history of marriage, but then again I guess that is the point – a lot of people arguing about the “meaning” of marriage haven’t actually studied it at all. Anyway, the most important part is the last bit “we can decide that for ourselves as a nation.” This is our nation. It doesn’t belong to people long dead no matter how great they may have been, and we should do what we know to be right. Too often people substitute imitation of the past for learning from it.