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History of Same Sex Marriage

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History of Same Sex Marriages

Historical Outline It is estimated that 250 million people (or 4% of the world population) live in areas that recognise same-sex marriage.

Gay men seem to have frequently married one another throughout history. In fact, in some societies marriages between gay men were officially recognized by the state, as in ancient Sparta, and on the Dorian island of Thera.

Much later, in 2nd century Rome, conjugal contracts between men of about the same age were ridiculed but legally binding. Such marriages were blessed by pagan religions, particularly sects of the Mother Goddess Cybele (imported from Asia Minor).

Many ancient writers, such as Strabo and Athenaeus, wrote that the Gauls or Celts commonly practised homosexuality.

Aristotle wrote that the Celts "openly held in honor passionate friendship (synousia) between males".

Diodorus Siculus wrote that "Although the Gauls have lovely women, they scarcely pay attention to them, but strangely crave male embraces (arrenon epiplokas).

Bardaisan of Edessa wrote that "In the countries of the north — in the lands of the Germans and those of their neighbors, handsome [noble] young men assume the role of wives [women] towards other men, and they celebrate marriage feasts."

Early 18th century London, gay men also got married, but without legal sanction. In the 1720s there were about 40 "molly houses" in central London, disorderly pubs or coffee houses where gay men (called "mollies"). Many of these gay clubs had a "Marrying Room" or "Chapel"Molly marriages didn't have the blessing of any church until the 1810s, when Rev John Church officiated as the "Chaplain" at male gay marriages at The Swan in Vere Street.

Gay marriages among the American Indians, particularly the Sioux and the Cheyenne. In most such marriages one of the two men was called a berdache. One of the more famous berdaches was Yellow Head of the Cheyenne, who became the third wife of Chief Wagetote after being rejected by the white mountaineer John Tanner.

Rictor Norton, "Taking a 'Husband': A History of Gay Marriage", Gay History and Literature, 21 February 2004, amended 3 February 2006, updated 13 June 2008 .

Ancient History

Various types of same-sex marriages have existed, ranging from informal, unsanctioned relationships to highly ritualized unions.

In the southern Chinese province of Fujian, through the Ming dynasty period,
females would bind themselves in contracts to younger females in elaborate ceremonies. Males also entered similar arrangements. This type of arrangement was also similar in ancient European history.

An example of egalitarian male domestic partnership from the early Zhou Dynasty period of China is recorded in the story of Pan Zhang & Wang Zhongxian. While the relationship was clearly approved by the wider community, and was compared to heterosexual marriage, it did not involve a religious ceremony binding the couple.

The first historical mention of the performance of same-sex marriages occurred during the early Roman Empire. For instance,

  • Emperor Nero is reported to have engaged in a marriage ceremony with one of his male slaves.
  • Emperor Elagabalus "married" a Carian slave named Hierocles.

It should be noted, however, that conubium existed only between a civis Romanus and a civis Romana (that is, between a male Roman citizen and a female Roman citizen), so that a so-called marriage between two Roman males (or with a slave) would have no legal standing in Roman law (apart, presumably, from the arbitrary will of the emperor in the two aforementioned cases). Furthermore, "matrimonium is an institution involving a mother, mater.

The idea implicit in the word is that a man takes a woman in marriage, in matrimonium ducere, so that he may have children by her." Still, the lack of legal validity notwithstanding, there is a consensus among modern historians that same-sex relationships existed in ancient Rome, but the exact frequency and nature of "same-sex unions" during that period is obscure.

In 342 AD Christian emperors Constantius II and Constans issued a law in the Theodosian Code (C. Th. 9.7.3) prohibiting same-sex marriage in Rome and ordering execution for those so married.

The first documented same-sex marriage was between the two men Pedro Díaz and Muño Vandilaz in the Galician municipality of Rairiz de Veiga in Spain on April 16, 1061. They were married by a priest at a small chapel. The historic documents about the church wedding were found at Monastery of San Salvador de Celanova.

Modern Times

In 2001, the Netherlands became the first nation in the world to grant same-sex marriages. Same-sex marriages are also granted and mutually recognized by Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010) and Argentina (2010).

In Mexico same sex marriage is recognized in all 31 states but only performed in Mexico City.

In Nepal, their recognition has been judicially mandated but not yet legislated.

Non Traditional Parenting

Scientific research has been consistent in showing that lesbian and gay parents are as fit and capable as heterosexual parents, and their children are as psychologically healthy and well-adjusted as children reared by heterosexual parents. According to scientific literature reviews, there is no evidence to the contrary.

What is traditional Marriage?

Marriage has never been quite as simple as one man, one woman and a desire to procreate. Across cultures, family structure varies drastically.

Early Christians in the Middle East and Europe favored monogamy without divorce.

Some Native American tribes practiced polygamy; others, monogamy with the option to dissolve the union.

In some African and Asian societies, Coontz said, same-sex marriages, though not seen as sexual, were permitted if one of the partners took on the social role of the opposite gender.

Inuit people in the Arctic formed co-marriages in which two husband-wife couples could trade partners, an arrangement that fostered peace between clans.

In some South American tribes, a pregnant woman could take lovers, all of whom were considered responsible for her child. According to "Cultures of Multiple Fathers: The Theory and Practice of Partible Paternity in Lowland South America" (University of Florida Press, 2002), 80 percent of children with multiple "fathers" survived to adulthood, compared with 64 percent of kids with just one dad.

Mormon splinter groups practice polygamy.

In Hui'an China up until the 1990s, many married women lived with their parents until the birth of their first child.

And in the Lahaul Valley of India, women practiced polyandry until the most recent generation, marrying not just one man, but all of his brothers as well. The tradition kept small land holdings in the hands of one family and prevented overpopulation in the remote valley.
The Western Ideal

But the first drastic redefinition of marriage in the Western world came from early Christians, Coontz said. At the time, a man could divorce his wife if she failed to bear children. Early Christians disavowed the practice. God had joined the couple together, they said, and a lack of offspring was no excuse to dissolve that bond. This was "unprecedented," Coontz said. "It was actually Christianity that first took the position that the validity of marriage did not depend on the ability to reproduce."

It took hundreds of years for the Church to enforce this pronouncement, and even then, local parishes would often find reasons to let divorce slide. As it stood, the early Christians weren't sold on marriage, anyway.

Saint Paul famously said that celibacy was the best path, but grudgingly added, according to the King James Version of the Bible, "If they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn."

Still, marriage was not a matter of love. Too much affection in a marriage was seen as a distraction from God.

In the Middle Ages, people went so far as to argue that love in marriage was impossible. The only way to true romance, they said, was adultery.

Love in Marriage

The disconnect between love and marriage wouldn't change until the late 1700s, when Enlightenment thinkers argued that the older generation had no business telling the younger generation who to marry.

From there, things snowballed relatively rapidly: In the early 1900s, sexual satisfaction became a criterion for marriage. Then, in the 1960s and 1970s, people began to question the laws that made men the legal overlords of their wives. Suddenly, the idea that marriage was a partnership between two people with different gender roles began to dissolve.

"My argument would be that it was heterosexuals who revolutionized marriage to the point where gays and lesbians began to say, 'Oh, this applies to us now,'" Coontz said. "First love, then sexual attraction, and then, finally and not until the 1970s, the idea that marriage could be gender-neutral."

With every change comes controversy, Coontz said. People sniffed at the idea of marrying for love, frowned upon the sexually liberated flappers of the 1920s, and fought against the Women's Liberation movement of the 1970s. 
Emotion and ideology

Some of those ideological debates still echo in today's debate over same-sex marriage, but research shows that there is no scientific reason to deny marriage rights to gays, said Sharon Rotosky, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky.

A June 2008 study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that children with lesbian parents actually did better on many measures than children of straight parents. Other studies have shown very similar outcomes between kids with gay parents and kids with straight parents.

Religious Views on Same Sex Marriage


Famous Non Traditional Couples


Non Tradional Lovers Throughout History