The Marriage of Likeness: Same-sex Unions in Pre-modern Europe

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9780002555081: The Marriage of Likeness: Same-sex Unions in Pre-modern Europe

For the last two decades the campaign for the sanctioning of gay marriages has been defamed by politicians and churches on the grounds that the notion is unnatural, a modern aberration. The notorious Clause 28 tagged onto Mrs Thatcher's egregious Local Government Act (1988) banned "the promotion of homosexuality" in schools, singling out as singularly wicked the notion that homosexual ties are a "pretended family relationship". In this book, John Boswell proves beyond dispute that in pagan Antiquity and during Christianity's first millenium, - for around 2000 years - extensive legal sanction was given to pair-bonding between males, and that societies found little difficulty in accepting the concepts that homosexual ties could indeed be family and familiar relationships. A main argument against homosexual unions has been that they are incapable of fulfilling all that constitutes "marriage", as dictated by a peculiar modern romantic cult of heterosexual love: monogamous erotic passion, procreation, housekeeping and friendship. However, what emerges from Boswell's examination of what the "conjugal alliance" has meant to different societies through the ages, is that male-female marriage itself was never expected to fulfil all these needs. Through analysis of a multitude of induction ceremonies, contractual forms, covenants, oaths, blessings, arrangements for the disposition of property and other types of publicly testified and legally-morally binding unions, Boswell shows that Christendom has had a major homosexual past which weighty authorities during the last few 100 years have chosen to suppress or ignore.

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