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Although state-recognized same-sex unions are becoming more accepted, there is a long history of same-sex unions around the world. Various types of same-sex unions have existed, ranging from informal, unsanctioned, and temporary relationships to highly ritualized unions that have included marriage.
While it is a relatively new practice that same-sex couples are being granted the same form of legal marital recognition as commonly used by mixed-sexed couples, there is a long history of recorded same-sex unions around the world. Various types of same-sex unions have existed, ranging from informal, unsanctioned relationships to highly ritualized unions. A same-sex union was known in Ancient Greece and Rome, in some regions of China, such as Fujian province, and at certain times in ancient European history. These gay unions continued until Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. A law in the Theodosian Code (C. Th. 9.7.3) was issued in 342 AD by the Christian emperors Constantius II and Constans, which prohibited same-sex marriage in ancient Rome and ordered that those who were so married were to be executed. 
Some early Western societies integrated same-sex relationships. The practice of same-sex love in ancient Greece often took the form of pederasty, which was limited in duration and in many cases co-existed with marriage. Documented cases in this region claimed these unions were temporary pederastic relationships. These unions created a moral dilemma for the Greeks and were not universally accepted.
Amongst the Romans, there were instances of same-sex marriages being performed, as evidenced by emperors Nero and Elagabalus who married men, and by its outlaw in 342 AD in the Theodosian Code, but the exact intent of the law and its relation to social practice is unclear, as only a few examples of same-sex marriage in that culture exist.
In Hellenic Greece, the pederastic relationships between Greek men (erastes) and youths (eromenos) were similar to marriage in that the age of the youth was similar to the age at which women married (the mid-teens, though in some city states, as young as age seven), and the relationship could only be undertaken with the consent of the father. This consent, just as in the case of a daughter's marriage, was contingent on the suitor's social standing. The relationship consisted of very specific social and religious responsibilities and also had a sexual component. Unlike marriage, however, a pederastic relation was temporary and ended when the boy turned seventeen.
At the same time, many of these relationships might be more clearly understood as mentoring relationships between adult men and young boys rather than an analog of marriage. This is particularly true in the case of Sparta, where the relationship was intended to further a young boy's military training. While the relationship was generally lifelong and of profound emotional significance to the participants, it was not considered marriage by contemporary culture, and the relationship continued even after participants reached age 30 and married women, as was expected in the culture.
Numerous examples of same sex unions among peers, not age-structured, are found in Ancient Greek writings. Aristotle praised a same sex couple (Philolaus and Dioclese) who lived their whole lives together and maintained a household together until their deaths when they were buried side by side. Lucian describes a debate in which a proponent of same-sex relationships describes them as being more stable than heterosexual relationships and goes on to express the hope that he will be buried with his lover after they have passed their lives together. Famous Greek couples in same sex relationships include Harmodius and Aristogiton, Pelopidas and Epaminondas and Alexander and Bogoas. However in none of these same sex unions is the Greek word for "marriage" ever mentioned. The Romans appear to have been the first to perform same sex marriages.
At least two of the Roman Emperors were in same-sex unions; and in fact, thirteen out of the first fourteen Roman Emperors held to be bisexual or exclusively homosexual.. The first Roman emperor to have married a man was Nero, who is reported to have married two other men on different occasions. First with one of his freedman, Pythagoras, to whom Nero took the role of the bride, and later as a groom Nero "married a man named Sporus in a very public ceremony... with all the solemnities of matrimony, and lived with him as his spouse" A friend gave the "bride" away "as required by law." The marriage was celebrated separately in both Greece and Rome in extravagant public ceremonies. The emperor Elagabalus married an athlete named Hierocles in a lavish public ceremony in Rome amidst the rejoicings of the citizens.
When a man marries and is about to offer himself to men in womanly fashion [quum vir nubit in feminam viris porrecturam], what does he wish, when sex has lost all its significance; when the crime is one which it is not profitable to know; when Venus is changed to another form; when love is sought and not found? We order the statutes to arise, the laws to be armed with an avenging sword, that those infamous persons who are now, or who hereafter may be, guilty may be subjected to exquisite punishment. (Theodosian Code 9.7.3)
According to Robin Lane Fox, among the unusual customs of the isolated oasis of Siwa (now Egypt, once Libya), one of great antiquity which survived to the 20th c was male homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
As did other philosophies and religions of the time, increasingly influential Christianity promoted marriage for procreative purposes. The teachings of the Talmud and Torah, and the Bible, were seen as specifically prohibiting the practices as contrary to nature and the will of the Creator, and a moral shortcoming. Even after the passing of the Theodosian code the Christian emperors continued to collect taxes on male prostitutes until the reign of Anastasius (491–518). In the year 390, the Christian emperors Valentinian II, Theodoisus and Arcadius declared homosexual sex to be illegal and those who were guilty of it were condemned to be burned alive in front of the public. The Christian emperor Justinian (527–565) made homosexuals a scapegoat for problems such as "famines, earthquakes, and pestilences." While homosexuality was tolerated in pre-Christian Rome, it was still nonetheless controversial. For example, arguments against same-sex relationships were included in Plutarch's Moralia.
In pre-Christian Rome and Greece, there had been some debate on which form of sexuality was preferable. While many people seemed to not oppose bisexuality, there were those who preferred to be exclusively heterosexual or homosexual. For example, a debate between homosexual and heterosexual love was included in Plutarch's Moralia.
After the Middle Ages in Europe, same-sex relationships were increasingly frowned upon and banned in many countries by the Church or the state. Nevertheless, Historian John Boswell argued that Adelphopoiesis, or brother-making, represented an early form of religious same-sex marriage in the Orthodox church. Alan Bray saw the rite of Ordo ad fratres faciendum ("Order for the making of brothers") as serving the same purpose in the medieval Roman Catholic Church. However, the historicity of Boswell's interpretation of the ceremony is contested by the Greek Orthodox Church, and his scholarship critiqued as being of dubious quality by scholars such as Robin Darling Young, Associate Professor of Theology at the Catholic University of America.
In late medieval France, it is possible the practice of entering a legal contract of "enbrotherment" (affrèrement) provided a vehicle for civil unions between unrelated male adults who pledged to live together sharing ‘un pain, un vin, et une bourse’ – one bread, one wine, and one purse. This legal category may represent one of the earliest forms of sanctioned same-sex unions.
While the church father, Augustine of Hippo, presented marriage as an important sacrament of the Christian Church in the 5th century CE, it wasn't until the “Sentences” of Peter Lombard, in the middle of the 12th century, that marriage became a part of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Christian Church.
In the 20th and 21st centuries various types of same-sex unions have come to be legalized. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in eight European countries: Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden; Luxembourg, Finland and France are currently in the process of legalization. Politicians in the United Kingdom have expressed their intention to promote legislation to allow same-sex marriage. Other types of recognition for same-sex unions (civil unions or registered partnerships) are as of 2012 legal in the following European countries: Andorra, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
|Wikinews has related news: Interview with gay marriage movement founder Evan Wolfson|
In North America, among the Native Americans societies, same-sex unions have taken the form of Two-Spirit-type relationships, in which some male members of the tribe, from an early age, heed a calling to take on female gender with all its responsibilities. "In many tribes, individuals who entered into same-sex relationships were considered holy and treated with utmost respect and acceptance," according to anthropologist Brian Gilley.
On July 20, 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world and the first country in the Americas to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act which provided a gender-neutral marriage definition. Court decisions, starting in 2003, each already legalized same-sex marriage in eight out of ten provinces and one of three territories, whose residents comprised about 90% of Canada's population. Before passage of the Act, more than 3,000 same-sex couples had already married in those areas. Most legal benefits commonly associated with marriage had been extended to cohabiting same-sex couples since 1999.
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||This article may contain original research. (September 2009)|
In the United States during the 19th century, there was recognition of the relationship of two women making a long-term commitment to each other and cohabitating, referred to at the time as a Boston marriage; however, the general public at the time likely assumed that sexual activities were not part of the relationship.
Rev. Troy Perry performed the first public gay wedding in the United States in 1969, but it was not legally recognized, and in 1970, Metropolitan Community Church filed the first-ever lawsuit seeking legal recognition of same-sex marriages. The lawsuit was not successful. In March 2005, two Unitarian Universalist ministers Kay Greenleaf and Dawn Sangrey were charged with multiple counts of solemnizing a marriage without a license in the State of New York. The charges were the first brought against clergy for performing same-sex unions in North America, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C.-based gay rights group.
The earliest use of the phrase "commitment ceremony" as an alternative term for "gay wedding" appears to be by Bill Woods who, in 1990, tried to organize a mass "commitment ceremony" for Hawaii's first gay pride parade. Similarly, Reverend Jimmy Creech of the First United Methodist Church performed his first "commitment ceremony" of a same-sex couple in 1990 in North Carolina. In January, 1987, Morningside Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends became the first Quaker Meeting to take a same-sex marriage (using the word marriage, rather than "commitment ceremony") under its care with the marriage of John Bohne and William McCann on May 30, 1987 . Although several other Meetings held “Ceremonies of Commitment, Morningside was the first to refer to the relationship as a marriage and afford it equal status.
Names for the registered, formal, or solemnized combination of same-sex partners have included "domestic partnership", "civil union", "marriage", "registered partnership", "reciprocal beneficiary", and "same-sex union".
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