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This is a history of same-sex unions in cultures 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. State-recognized same-sex unions have recently become more widely accepted, with various countries recognizing same-sex marriages or other types of unions.
There is 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.
The Old Testament prohibited homosexual relations (Lev. 18:22, 20:13), and the Jewish sages provide the reason for this as being that the Hebrews were warned not to "follow the acts of the land of Egypt or the acts of the land of Canaan." The sages explicitly state: "what did [the Egyptians and Canaanites] do? A man would marry a man and a woman [marry] a woman."
Same-sex marital practices and rituals were more recognized in Mesopotamia than in ancient Egypt. The Almanac of Incantations contained prayers favoring on an equal basis the love of a man for a woman and of a man for man.
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.
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.
At least two of the Roman Emperors were in same-sex unions; and in fact, thirteen out of the first fourteen Roman Emperors are held to have been 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 young boy to replace his young teenage concubine whom he had killed  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 Child Emperor Elagabalus referred to his chariot driver, a blond slave from Caria named Hierocles, as his husband. He also married an athlete named Zoticus in a lavish public ceremony in Rome amidst the rejoicings of the citizens.
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 20 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. 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.
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 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).
When a man “marries” in the manner of a woman, a “woman” about to renounce men, what does he wish, when sex has lost its significance; when the crime is one which it is not profitable to know; when Venus is changed into 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 century 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 theologian Robin Darling Young.
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.
The Catholic Church has always maintained that marriage (also called Holy Matrimony) is a Sacrament instituted by Christ, between a baptized man and a baptized woman.
A same-sex marriage between the two men Pedro Díaz and Muño Vandilaz in the Galician municipality of Rairiz de Veiga in Spain occurred on 16 April 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.
Michel de Montaigne, a 16th-century French philosopher and prominent essayist, witnessed a same-sex wedding occur using the usual Tridentine marriage ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church. The ceremony occurred at the San Giovanni a Porta Latina basilica in Rome in 1581.
In the 20th and 21st centuries various types of same-sex unions have come to be legalized. As of December 2017[update], same-sex marriage is currently legal in fifteen European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (England, Wales and Scotland).
Other types of recognition for same-sex unions (civil unions or registered partnerships) are, as of 2017[update], legal in additional twelve European countries: Andorra, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, (Isle of Man), Italy, (Jersey), Liechtenstein, Malta, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland).
A referendum to change the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland to allow same sex marriage took place on 22 May 2015 and approved the proposal to add the following declaration to the Constitution: "marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex".
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In North America, among the Native Americans societies, same-sex unions have taken place with persons known as Two-Spirit types. These are individuals who fulfill one of many mixed gender roles in First Nations and Native American tribes. "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.
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 did not assume that sexual activities were 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 Reyson Ame 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. On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that marriage is a fundamental right and must be extended to same-sex couples.
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".
Pederasty was an ethical crux for the Greeks, even as homosexuality in general is an ethical and political crux in the present day. Its practitioners were often apologetic, its opponents censorious or derisive.
But other, non-Christian traditions in Roman society—Stoicism, Neo-Platonism and Manicheanism—similarly urged that "intercourse was supposed to take place only so as to produce children. The couple must not make love for the sake of pleasure alone."
While the statute [that prohibited same-sex marriage in ancient Rome] reinforces the impression that same-sex marriages were not uncommon in the Roman Empire, it also evidences an anxiety about same-sex unions that antedated the 4th century. At the end of the 2nd century, for example, Plutarch's Moralia included a dialogue filled with invective both for and against same-sex relationships, suggesting that their propriety was a matter of some controversy. A subsequent anonymous dialogue entitled Affairs of the Heart was sympathetic to same-sex relationships but sharply distinguished them from marriage.