Same Sex Marriage Does Not Exist
What is happening to marriage? For thousands of years it has been recognised all over the world as a unique union between a man and a woman for the procreation and nurturing of children, but now it's turning into a civil rights issue with homosexual and lesbian couples demanding so-called "marriage equality". It started off with civil partnerships which gave same-sex couples all the legal rights associated with marriage, but for some gay rights activists it wasn't enough, they wanted marriage itself. The first civil partnerships were legalised in Denmark in 1989 followed by a number of other countries, mostly in the European Union, and in the states of California and Vermont in the USA. Then in 2001, same-sex marriage was legalised in the Netherlands, followed by many other countries including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Uraguay, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand, and in some states in the USA, Mexico and Brazil. Next in line could be Britain, with legislation affecting England and Wales already passed through the House of Commons and making its way through the Lords, and a separate debate in progress in Scotland.
Marriage is a very ancient custom, it has been practised all over the world throughout the whole of recorded history. It pre-dates politics and possibly even religion. It has always recognised the unique, life-long relationship between a man and a woman, but why should this have been the case when there are many other relationships that involve long-term commitment? Why not give equal social recognition to two men, two women, or even a man and his dog?
The relationship between a man and his dog is very profound. They stay together until one of them dies, usually the dog first because it has a shorter lifetime, but whichever way round it happens, it causes a sense of grief for the surviving partner. A dog is a man's best friend. All it wants is food and shelter and some affection, and when you are in trouble it will save your life. You go out to work and come home and it greets you with enthusiasm, more than any human being. So when you go to a pet shop and buy a dog, why don't you send out invitations to all your friends and relatives and invite them to a ceremony to celebrate the union between yourself and your canine friend? There are two reasons:
There is one reason, and one reason only, why the world has felt the need to recognise the relationship between a man and a woman. It's because itís the only union capable of bringing the next generation of humans into the world. Itís a life-cycle event, same as birth and death. Birth is coming into the world, death is going out, and marriage is preparing for the next generation. People go to a wedding in the expectation that in the process of time, as nature takes its course, they will become grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. This is the reason why they want to see the bride and groom making a commitment to each other, to stay together for life, "for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part". It's because it takes a long time to bring up children, and when they are gone they will have children of their own, so that there are grandchildren to think about. There is also the involvement of wider society, who have to get involved with healthcare and education, and just in case the children won't behave themselves, there might be the involvement of police. That's why the commitment of husband and wife is so important, they are prospective parents and they have to do the job well, to avoid placing an unnecessary burden on society.
But sometimes we hear the counter-arguments, that some marriages are unproductive, and some people get married knowing in advance that they can't have children, or they don't have any intention of having children. So why can't same-sex couples get married? The reason is very simple, they can't consummate the marriage because they don't have the right equipment, and the so-called "marriage" could be immediately annulled.
In addition to this, there are various other considerations that differentiate a same-sex couple from an unproductive marriage:
Same sex couples have none of these qualities. Not only are they infertile, their union doesn't even bear a resemblance to the natural process of reproduction. They can have children by adoption, and it works well while the children are small, but when they become aware of the process of reproduction, they wonder why they have two Mums or two Dads. Children can be cruel, they respond negatively to things that they find unnatural, and some adoptive gay and lesbian parents admit that they are worried about what is going to happen when their children go to secondary school.
Legal Issues in Britain
Civil partnerships were introduced in the UK in 2004 and they include all the legal rights associated with marriage, including pensions, inheritance, next of kin rights when a partner is in hospital, joint custody of adopted children, and many other benefits.
There is no legal requirement that someone adopting a child should be married or in a civil partnership. The adoption agencies have to consider each case on its merits and do whatever they believe is in the best interests of the child. They could give a child to a single person if they want to, then if the person gets married or goes into a civil partnership, their partner automatically becomes a joint adoptive parent. So for a same-sex couple, marriage has no legal benefits over civil partnership, not even in the area of childcare. The reason they want marriage is not because of legal issues, it's because they believe that marriage will enhance their social status and make them feel more "equal". But they will find it doesn't do much when they try to organise a wedding and have to invite their heterosexual Mum and Dad.
Civil partnership has worked quite well in the UK, and most people find it easy to accept. It hasnít caused any problems for married couples because it isn't based on the marriage laws, itís covered by completely separate legislation. Same-sex marriage is an entirely different matter. It affects normal married couples because itís based on amendments to existing laws and itís estimated that more than 8,000 amendments will have to be made. The most problematic issue is that same-sex marriage can't be consummated. Nobody knows how to define gay and lesbian sex, so there is no definition of adultery.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2013, which is currently going through Parliament, messes up the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1973 as follows:
To clarify the matter further, here is the legal definition of consummation of marriage. It's not defined in any Act of Parliament. Instead itís defined in case law, a process in which judges in the upper courts apply the law to specific cases and come up with solutions that can be seen to fulfil the intended purpose of the law, then the same judgements are applied in the lower courts. A judge called Dr. Lushington, in 1845, presided over a case where a woman had a deformed vagina, incapable of penetration, and he annulled the marriage. He ruled that consummation of a marriage requires "ordinary and complete" sexual intercourse, including erection and penetration but not necessarily orgasm. Otherwise itís considered to be "partial and imperfect". This ruling has been followed by the judiciary ever since, so it became established as case law.
As I write this article, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill has passed its second reading in the House of Lords and will soon go to the committee stage where it is likely to be amended because of the controversy and division it has caused. The major issues will be the sections I have mentioned, about the causes for divorce and annullment. Members will be concerned about a two tier marriage system where heterosexual couples have to be faithful to each other while homosexuals do not, and the issue of consummation of marriage. Since they have never defined consummation in any Act of Parliament and left it to the judges, they might feel the same about defining what constitutes homosexual consummation. Do they really want to sit there looking so posh in their gowns and wigs, talking about "buggery" and "fisting"? In addition to all this messy stuff, they will also want to introduce some amendments to prevent discrimination against people who don't believe in same-sex marriage. For example, if a minister in a non-conformist church decides he doesn't want to do a same-sex marriage, will he find that he can no longer hire the village hall for a church overflow meeting? Or will someone in a public sector job get sacked for saying to his friends, in his own free time in the pub, that "same sex marriage does not exist". Hopefully the peers themselves will realise it doesn't exist, and this bill will fall on the rocks in committee and not go any further.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill specifically forbids the Church of England from performing weddings for same-sex couples. The reason is, the Church of England is the state church and all its Canons have to be approved by Parliament and given to the Queen for royal assent. If the Church of England got involved in same sex marriages, it would have to revise its Canons, and it would cause so much turmoil it would probably result in the disestablishment of the church
When Henry VIII broke ranks with the Roman Catholic Church, he established the Church of England as the state church, using the Submission of the Clergy Act, 1533. Section 3 says (after tidying up the antiquated English), that "no Canons shall be contrary to the Royal Prerogative or the customs, laws or statutes of this realm". Thus he made himself supreme head of the church, a title that remains with the monarch to this day.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Section 1 says:
B 30 Of Holy Matrimony
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Section 1 continues with two more paragraphs:
This means, after encouraging the church to continue its belief in traditional marriage, it is actually forbidden to carry out same-sex marriages. The provision of the Bill, to legalise same-sex marriage, does not apply to either the Church of England or the Church of Wales.
The Bill continues with sections giving other churches (Baptists, Methodists and other denominations) the right to opt in or out of same-sex marriage, according to their beliefs, and nobody is under any compulsion to act one way or the other. However, it remains to be seen how this works out in practice, as people who have been refused religious marriages look for ways of applying pressure and coercion on the church.
I think it's time for non-conformist churches to follow the example of the Church of England and update their Statements of Faith, and their Mission Statements, to say exactly what they believe about marriage.
Also the Church of England needs to be on its guard. The exemption from any involvement in same sex marriage could be just a sweetener to speed up the passage of the Bill through Parliament. The gay rights lobby is already hacking away at the Church of England, before the Bill has even been passed, by suggesting that St. Mary Undercroft, an Anglican chapel in the basement of the Palace of Westminster, could be made into an inter-faith or inter-denominational centre and used as a venue for same-sex weddings. This would require the involvement of Buckingham Palace because it's a Royal chapel within the Royal peculiar of Westminster Abbey, under the direct authority of the Queen.
History of Marriage
Many volumes could be written on the history of marriage. It would be like writing the history of the world itself, as families and clans have multiplied and spread around the world. The customs and rituals associated with marriage have varied from one culture to another, but the same basic elements have been perpetuated. It involves an agreement between the families of the bride and groom, possibly with an exchange of money, and the father of the bride gives away his daughter to the groom and then they have a celebration. It also requires that the marriage should be consummated, and in ancient cultures and in some parts of the world today, the marriage has to be consummated before the celebration begins. In rural areas of the Middle East there is a ritual that seems bizarre to modern Western culture. The bride and groom go into a private room and consummate the marriage, then they appear with the blood-stained sheets and display them to the guests, to prove that she was a virgin. Then they start the celebrations that might last for up to seven days.
In modern western cultures, we have a different set of customs but in principle it's the same. There is a church service where the father gives away his daughter to the groom and they make their vows to each other ("till death do us part", etc.) in front of a priest and their friends and relatives, and then the celebration begins. Alternatively there might be a civil wedding with a cut-down version of the vows, where they simply agree to be married according to the laws of the state and there are no religious elements, and then they start to celebrate. In either case, there is the expectation that the marriage will be consummated shortly afterwards, normally in a honeymoon hotel, and if it doesn't happen the marriage can be annulled (although cases of annullment for non-consummation are rare and difficult to prove).
Without trawling through the whole history of the world, I'll stick to how it's defined in the Bible
Marriage is based on the first of Godís commandments ďBe fruitful and multiplyÖĒ (Gen. 1:28). In the case of Adam and Eve there was no family, and God gave his direct approval by bringing the woman to the man (Gen 2:22), the divine equivalent of a father giving away his daughter. Then it says "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). This is the command to leave and do something in private, to consummate the marriage, and soon we see an example that resulted in childbirth: ďAdam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain...Ē (Gen. 4:1).
The book of Genesis continues with some lists of genealogies, without saying anything about marriage customs, until we have the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah.(Gen 24). Abraham sent his servant back to his home country to find a wife for Isaac. The servant found Rebekah, the daughter of Milcah, and gave her some gifts, then they went to her house with her brother Laban. The servant asked if he could take her to the land of Canaan to be Isaacís wife. Milcah and Laban both agreed, then they asked Rebekah and she agreed, and the next day they set off. When they arrived in Caanan, Isaac took Rebekah into his deceased motherís tent and they consummated the marriage.
Note: Polygamy was commonplace in the Old Testament, but it was discouraged in the New Testament and denounced altogether by the early church fathers, Tertullian, Eusebius, Basil of Caesarea and Augustine of Hippo. I won't discuss it further in this article, it's a theological minefield. Suffice it to say that the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, was not scaremongering when he suggested that same sex marriage represents a change in our definition of marriage that could logically be extended to include polygamy.
The Bible says a lot more about marriage, for example there is the passage about the "virtuous woman" who stays with her husband all the days of her life, and does him good and not harm, and she is praised by her husband and her children. (Prov. 31:10-31). Jewish men follow the custom of reading this passage to their wives on the eve of every Sabbath.
There is a passage about how God is witness to the covenant of marriage and demands that we are faithful: "...the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth ... thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one?... And wherefore one? ... the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away... take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously." (Malachi 2:14-16)
Jesus followed the same theme when he was asked a question about divorce. "...Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? ... What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder". Then he said that Moses allowed divorce because of the "hardness of your hearts", but it was not like that from the beginning, and he gave his own ruling, that acts of infidelity were the only legitimate cause for divorce". (Matt. 19:3-9)
History of Homosexuality
Homosexuality has existed since ancient times, probably as a minority activity throughout the world as it is today. The first Biblical account is from the city of Sodom, where Lot entertained some angelic visitors who appeared as men, and they stayed at his house during the night, but the men of Sodom surrounded the house and said "bring them out unto us, that we might know them". The angels struck them blind, and Lot and his family fled to the countryside, then the city was destroyed by fire. (Gen. 19:1-28)
There is evidence from Leviticus 18 that a variety of sexual activities, including homosexuality, were practised in Egypt and Caanan during the time of Moses. The chapter begins by telling the Israelites that they should not do any of the things that are done in Egypt, from where they came, or any of the things that are done in Caanan, to where they were going. Then it lists a variety of forbidden practices, including incest, sex with a woman during menstruation, sex with another man's wife, and bestiality. It also includes homosexuality as follows: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." (Lev. 18:22). So these practices obviously existed in Egypt and Caanan.
The ancient Greeks knew about homosexuality, including the unequal union between mature men and youths, and it's documented in Plato's Symposium, dated 360BC. The participants at a drinking party, hosted by the poet Agathon, were each expected to make a speech about erotic love.
Phedrus begins by saying that Eros was the oldest of the gods, and would inspire a lover to gain the admiration of his beloved by showing bravery on the battlefield, and they would be prepared to die for each other. The couple may be homosexual or heterosexual, it didn't make any difference, moral virtue was the matter of greatest interest.
Pausanius continues by saying there are two Aphrodite godesses, therefore two types of love. He briefly mentions the "common Aphrodite", the object of whose of love may equally be a woman or a boy, but he is more intrested in Aphrodite Urania (the Heavenly Aphrodite) who came entirely from the male Uranus and has no mother, and she inspires the love of male youths. Then he continues:
"Those who are inspired by this love turn to the male, and delight in him who is the more valiant and intelligent nature; any one may recognise the pure enthusiasts in the very character of their attachments. For they love not boys, but intelligent, beings whose reason is beginning to be developed, much about the time at which their beards begin to grow. And in choosing young men to be their companions, they mean to be faithful to them, and pass their whole life in company with them, not to take them in their inexperience, and deceive them, and play the fool with them, or run away from one to another of them. But the love of young boys should be forbidden by law, because their future is uncertain;..."
He continues with a discussion about the confusing rules in different provinces, and it's obvious that pederasty (sexual activity between men and boys) was well known to the Greeks. He says the union between a mature man and a consenting youth is more honourable, and was to be encouraged between a teacher and his student:
"For we have a custom, and according to our custom any one who does service to another under the idea that he will be improved by him either in wisdom, or, in some other particular of virtue-such a voluntary service, I say, is not to be regarded as a dishonour, and is not open to the charge of flattery. And these two customs, one the love of youth, and the other the practice of philosophy and virtue in general, ought to meet in one, and then the beloved may honourably indulge the lover."
Eryximachus makes a speech about how love occurs in everything in the universe, and then Aristophanes makes his speech, but first he warned that they might find it amusing. He said that humans originally had four hands and four feet, and heads with two faces pointing away from each other. They were like two people stuck together, some male-male, some female-female, and some androgynous having both sexes. They made trouble for the gods, so Zeus cut them in half, and each half went around searching for their other half. Those who were male-male became homosexual, those who were female-female became lesbian, and those who were androgynous became heterosexual.
The party continues with a few more speeches and finally Alcibiades arrives late and praises the virtues of Socrates, making it obvious that he likes him, but then Agathon lies down next to Socrates, much to the disappointment of Alcibiades.
History of Same Sex Marriage
While homosexuality has been known around the world since ancient times, same sex marriage is a different matter entirely. If you go into Google and type "history of same sex marriage" you will get a long list of books and articles, mostly from gay rights activists, claiming that same-sex marriages have been legalised or otherwise socially recognised in many cultures around the world for centuries. Some of these publications look quite impressive, they have footnotes and references making them look as if they are the result of scholarly research. However, when you look up the references you find they are only quoting from other gay rights activists with the same political agenda. They in turn derive their material from other gay rights activists and so the trail goes on, rarely if ever arriving at a primary source (someone who lived at the time or shortly afterwards and had direct access to the evidence).
To confuse the matter further, homosexuals today sometimes casually refer to their relationships as "marriages" even though they have been given no legal status. If they wrote it down, and someone picked it up a few centuries later, would they take it as proof that same sex marriage existed in our time? So even if we found a primary source describing an ancient same-sex marriage, we would have to ask ourselves, who considered it to be a marriage, and how was it legalised?
The gay rights activists would have us believe that same sex marriage existed among the ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Hittites, Greeks, Romans, and in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. They admit that the evidence for some of this is scarce, but they say that evidence of disapproval is also scarce, so it must have been recognised or at least tolerated. That's not good enough, you can't create history from nothing (although they might have a point with Egypt, as we will see).
Then they move on to Christianity and say that homosexuality was discouraged and finally outlawed, but during the Middle Ages the church performed "brotherhood" ceremonies which amounted to same-sex marriage. The claims for this are entirely spurious, and the brotherhood ceremonies are perfectly harmless. The church has always recognised the value of Christian companionship, since the time when Jesus sent out the seventy in pairs, to preach the Gospel in the towns and cities. (Luke 10:1). Fellowship has always been an important part of Christianity, and nobody is ever been expected to walk the Christian path alone.
I have found that the history of same sex marriage has been a mudpile of claims and counter-claims, and like all mudpiles, there might be a few grains of truth at the bottom. I think I found one of them, in the form of a Roman emperor who apparently married a boy.
In 67AD, the Roman Emperor Nero ordered a boy, Sporus, to be castrated and then married him, and called him Sabina because he bore a resemblance to his deceased wife. The Roman historian Suetonius writes about it as follows:
He castrated the boy Sporus and actually tried to make a woman of him; and he married him with all the usual ceremonies, including a dowry and a bridal veil, took him to his home attended by a great throng, and treated him as his wife. And the witty jest that someone made is still current, that it would have been well for the world if Nero's father Domitius had had that kind of wife. This Sporus, decked out with the finery of the empresses and riding in a litter, he took with him to the courts and marts of Greece, and later at Rome through the Street of the Images, fondly kissing him from time to time. (Suetonius, Nero, XXVIII).
After the death of Nero, the next emperor Vitellius arranged for Sporus (probably still less than 20 years old) to play the title role in the Rape of Persephone at a gladiator contest, but Sporus committed suicide to avoid being humiliated.
If this is an example of legalised same-sex marriage, I don't think much of it. This is the Emperor, he can do what he likes, everything he does is "legal" because nobody can argue with him. Besides, it was not consensual, it's unlikely that the boy Sporus consented to being castrated and made into a woman.
Historical examples of same-sex marriage are scarce, but they do exist in the Jewish classical literature (Midrash Rabbah, Talmud, etc.), and they are always followed by great disasters. For example, it occurred in Egypt before the Exodus, when the country was destroyed by the plagues, and it occurred at the time of Noah when the world was destroyed by the Flood. For details see Same Sex Marriage and the End of the World.
Marriage is not a recent invention, for us to do with it as we please. It's a precious gift, handed down to us from antiquity through countless generations. The details have varied, for example the wedding customs, the age of consent and the rules of inheritance, but it has always remained essentially the same, the public recognition of the life-long commitment between a man and a woman, to stay together and accept the responsibilities of procreation and raising children.
No government in the world has a right to change the basic definition of marriage, for purpose of equality or any other reason, and nobody in the world should be obliged to accept that two men or two women can be "married".