Redefining History: The Myth Of Marriage As Religious Union Between Man & Woman

Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum (Egypt)
One of the most common arguments against marriage equality is the claim, "Marriage has always been between a man and a woman."

We also hear time and again about the "sanctity of marriage," and that marriage was designed by God, and is therefore a religious institution.

These notions are simply not true. Anyone with a basic knowledge of human history would know these claims don't float.

Let's have a quick look at some examples from history which shed some light on how marriage has been defined, and re-defined, over time:

Pre-500 BCE

• Abraham (founding forefather of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) had his wife Sarah sleep with both the Egyptian Pharaoh and the Semitic King Abimelech for political positioning and increased riches. Unable to provide Abraham with an heir, Sarah encouraged Abraham to marry her Egyptian slave as his second wife (polygamy), which resulted in the son Ishmael.

• A wife was considered her husband’s property. Marriage was used to strengthen a family’s financial or political position.

5th Century BCE thru 1st Century BCE

• In Athens, “Marriage was respected as an institution that provided progeny and good housekeeping; it was not expected to fulfill one’s longing for a soul mate.” The ideal union was considered to be between an adult man and an adolescent boy.

• Marriage was a contract made between the bride’s father (or brother) and the groom.

• Toward the end of this period, “Roman marriage laws began to require the consent of the bride and groom.” The requirement for mutual consent between the bride and groom began spreading throughout the Western world and helped to change a wife’s position from a piece of property, like cattle, that could be given by the father to her husband.

1st Century CE thru 14th Century CE

• The early Christian church was hostile to marriage, believing that marriage and family were distractions from the path to salvation. To remain single and celibate was the ideal.

• Nero married two men, Sporus in 54 CE, and Doryphorus in 68 CE.

• Same sex weddings took place in increasing numbers over a period of time, but were outlawed in 342 CE.

• Basil I, founder of the Macedonian dynasty, entered into three same-sex unions, first with Nicholas, a monk of the church of St. Diomede; then to John, son of a wealthy widow in Achaia, Greece; and then later to the Emperor Michael. After Basil entered a formal union with Nicholas it was reported that “they rejoiced in each other.”

• “Canon law made two changes that were to have long-term effects. First, the church pressured individuals to marry in the presence not only of witnesses, but also of a priest, and to perform this ceremony ‘at church.’ Second, it downplayed the need for parental consent, and foregrounded the mutual will of the intended spouses as the major criterion in the making of a valid marriage. This revolutionary doctrine would endure and flourish over the centuries.”

• Love preceding marriage began to take hold in Europe, when previously affectionate feelings or familial devotion was expected to develop after marriage.

15th Century CE thru 18th Century CE

• Although mutual consent and love preceding marriage had taken hold, marriage retained elements of its former status as a property arrangement. Once a woman was married, her husband became her legal guardian. Her husband legally owned all the property she brought to the marriage.

• Governments and Churches in greater Europe successfully enforced a rule requiring church ceremony to validate a marriage beginning in the 16th century. This requirement came to England a bit later in, in 1735.

19th Century CE

• 1801 Murray Hall, a prominent Tammany Hall politician in New York, was posthumously discovered to have been a woman. Hall dressed in men’s clothing, lived as a man, and was married twice, both times to women. Hall also voted in elections, which was illegal for women at the time.

• The Oneida Colony in upstate New York, founded by John Noyes in 1848, cultivated a form of group marriage called "complex marriage" in which theoretically every woman was married to every man. The community also practiced "scientific breeding" in which potential parents were matched by committee for physical and mental health.

• If a woman worked outside the home, everything she made belonged to her husband. Her children also belonged to her husband. If she divorced him, he kept all of her earnings and their children, even if he was a drunkard who beat her.

• Biawacheeitchish, also known as Pine Leaf and Woman Chief, became a renowned war and camp leader among the Crow Indians. She dressed as a man when she went to war and had a number of wives.

• Henry James’ novel The Bostonians contained themes of feminism and led to the coining of the term “Boston Marriage” to describe romantic friendships between women, which often included holding hands, cuddling, sharing a bed, and making open expressions of love for each other.

20th Century CE

• Sephardic Jews in the Middle East maintained the right to polygamy until an all-inclusive ban was pronounced in the mid-twentieth century, after the formation of the State of Israel.

• 1967 In Loving v. Virginia the United States Supreme Court declared Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute unconstitutional, thereby ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States. The court’s decision was based on the due process and the equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

• In 1969 in California, Troy Perry presides over the "holy union" of two women, Neva Heckman and Judith Belew — the first public same-sex marriage ceremony in American history.

• 1989, Denmark – The first government-recognized same-sex union in modern history takes place.

Dawn of the 21st Century CE (2000s CE thru the present)

• 2000, Vermont – Vermont became the first state in the U.S. to grant civil unions to same sex couples. Civil unions are intended to grant all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples, although they are not recognized by the federal government. The legislation that created civil unions came about as a result of a state Supreme Court decision, in which the court ruled that denying marriage rights to same sex couples was unconstitutional discrimination.

• 2001, The Netherlands – Same-sex marriage becomes legal for the first time in modern history.

• 2003, Belgium – This country became the second to legalize same-sex marriage.

• 2003, Massachusetts – The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that same-sex couples should have equal rights to marry under the state constitution. Their decision is based on the grounds of due process and equal protection).

• 2005, Navajo Nation – Joe Shirley Jr., Navajo President, vetoed a bill by the tribal legislature that banned same-sex marriage on the reservation.

• 2005, Connecticut – The Connecticut state legislature became the first in the U.S. to pass civil unions legislation without pressure from the courts.

• 2005, Spain – Same-sex marriage became legal.

• 2005, Canada – Our neighbor to the north becomes the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage..

• 2006, Arizona – The state’s voters become the first to reject a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

• 2006, New Jersey – Under circumstances similar to those in Vermont in 2000, the New Jersey state legislature enacted civil unions in response to a state Supreme Court order that same-sex couples be granted the same rights as married couples.

• 2006, South Africa – Same sex marriage becomes legal.

• May 15, 2008 , Sacramento – California Supreme Court issued a decision striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Noting that the state’s domestic partnership law falls short of full equality, the ruling also holds that any discrimination based on sexual orientation must pass “strict scrutiny,” the same standard that applies to race and gender (In re Marriage Cases). Chief Justice Ronald M. George, an appointee of Gov. Pete Wilson (Dolan), writing for the majority stated that “An individual’s sexual orientation – like a person’s race or gender – does not constitute a legal basis on which to deny or withhold legal rights” (In re Marriage Cases).

• May, 2008, New York – Following an opinion by legal counsel, Gov. David Paterson directed all state agencies to begin recognizing same-sex marriages that are performed in other jurisdictions, including Massachusetts, California, and Canada.

The source of the above information, Labmda Archives San Diego, has not updated their timeline in a while, but you get the idea (I have also edited out numerous entries for the purpose of this post). It is important to note that marriage laws in the US, and elsewhere, continue to be challenged, and altered. Right now we are in the middle of several high profile same-sex marriage battles, including California, New Jersey, Washington State, North Carolina and elsewhere.

The point is this: Marriage has not always been a union between a man and a woman. Furthermore, marriage has not always been a union designed, or endorsed, by God or the church.

Here's the big one, folks: Marriage predates monotheism. Fact. In other words, marriage predates the God of Abraham -- the same God who supposedly designed marriage.

Marriage has been evolving over the course of human history, and it will continue to evolve until humans no longer walk the earth. Marriage has been re-defined over and over, and will continue to be re-defined.

To characterize marriage as "the union between a man and a woman as designed by God," is, quite simply, to freeze the definition of marriage at the point in human history that suits your idea of what marriage should be -- with total disregard for how marriage came about, how it evolved, and how it will inevitably continue to evolve.


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  2. Marriage cannot predate God, since God predates everything that has ever existed. Next topic...

    1. Since God is a ridiculous myth your argument is not only asinine, but completely wrong.

    2. Can you prove God is a myth? You believe that the entire universe is one big accident? We human just got lucky? How can something so complex and complementary as the universe and everything in it be a accident? One human cell is much more complex than a smart phone and some microbiologists have said its more complex than a metropolitan city. And take the fact that we have a ridiculous amount of cells working n sync. Well I would say someone had to of designed humans. And the only realistic answer to our creation would have to be a supernatural being. Even just look at bees and how they work and what they do for the environment. To say even that bees were not designed by someone is what is asinine. But than to say the entire universe was not created by someone is really insane. God created the world deal with it!

    3. Whether or not "A" God exists cannot be proven or disproven. The God written of in the Bible be disproven as it claims in the beginning was the word and the word was God which historically can be proven false as there were many religions and Gods that preceded the Biblical. The concepts of the Bible are myths stolen from previous pagan religions thus making it pagan as well. Proof it is pagan: Blood sacrifice for menstrual cleansing rituals (Lev). How absurd! This has sweet FA to do with female hygiene; the God of the Bible is made up by asinine men lacking knowledge of things we have since learned about by ignoring religious dogma. Just because we don't know how the universe started does not by default imply a God did it this retarded thinking.

  3. Prove the existence of god. Use facts, not myths, and other religious lies.

    1. can you prove that God does not exist? The only one not using facts is you and the guy who wrote this article.

    2. A question always thrown out there by people who want to unequivocally shut down anyone that opposes their point of view. Just because you don't understand physics and the explanation that physicists give for the working of the universe and all things in it doesn't mean god exists. For that matter it doesn't mean god doesn't exist.

  4. This is by for one of the dumbest articles I have ever read in my life. I feel like the guy from Billy Madison "what you've just said... is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul"

    Almost all your facts are wrong. Its no surprise you got them all from a homosexual poorly made website. Its funny how homosexuals try to rewrite history to justify their disgusting and evil behavior.

    Well go with your evolution premise. But first of all evolution is not a good word. That implies its always gotten better. We will use the word change. Well marriage started with man and woman from the historical Adam and Eve. Even ancient non Christian cultures write of these two people being together. And yes marriage did change throughout time. some cultures even allowed incest,polygamy,bestiality,group marriages, and some married groups of stolen girls from war. However these bad cases does not justify our culture also changing for bad. As you said marriage also changed for good. And we should follow that change to good. Lets change it for good by further letting people know that marriage is between man and woman. And to respect it beauty and respect children which only man and woman can give you. And to respect the dignity of woman.

    Lets talk about your other strange points. Abraham never allowed Sarah to sleep with other men. And God actually punished pharaoh for trying to get with Abraham's wife. In the Holy Bible and in Christianity spanning back to the time God created Adam and Eve. Woman and man have always been biologically and divinely made for each other. And the first marriage was with Adam and Eve. They were the first married couple. That predates any of your idiotic claims. And the whole marriage during evolution times has been debunked.

    Here is a quote from Jesus Christ himself from the book of Mathew. Showing that Marriage was from the start man and woman!

    “Haven’t you read . . . that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate

    1. The point you're missing is that discrimination for any reason leads to more and more of it. It's all well and good until the day the very thing that makes you who you are is then targeted. Then what?
      I firmly believe you've you're right to pursue your religious freedom at your discretion. However, you at no time have the right to enforce them on me or any other person on this planet anywhere.

    2. Marriage in no way respects women or children at all. It's simply an archaic form of property control. Women and children are seen as little more than chattle in religions eyes. No amount of sugarcoating will change that.

  5. Continued:

    And woman were not always objects. since the beginning they were meant to be helpers with man. here is another quote from the Bible.

    18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; xI will make him a helper comparable to him.”

    Woman were being mistreated during ancient times. However Christianity and Judaism elevated woman compared to all of the rest of the world. Judaism for example banned adultery. And in Christianity and Judaism it was always man with woman. Never was homosexuality allowed in teachings. And the few times something else occurred such as Abraham with another woman was when God had to interceded for a greater purpose. But never did God allow this to people in general. And never did he allow even one case of homosexuality and he even burned an entire city because of homosexuality!

    And the early Christian Church was not actually hostile to Marriage. First of all Jesus Christ made marriage so high that it was a sacrament. And Christians kept this tradition by keeping it a sacrament. Marriage was promoted by early Christians as an important thing. It was never attacked or belittled by the Catholic Church. It was the society around Christians specifically that of Rome(which persecuted Christians) which belittled marriage. They allowed all types of marriages and all types of immoral actions. Rome of than is similar to America of today from abortion,political corruption,homosexuality,adultery,war and so on.

    Christians were a shining beacon in Rome. They did not conform to the culture.

    And as you said yourself Christians were the ones who kept on increasing the importance of marriage.

    In ancient Rome even before Jesus Christ their was also homosexuality. However the great famous Greek philosophers condemned it. It was not something that all the elites agreed with.

    And again yes a very few evil cultures did at times allow homosexual marriage such as Rome. However it still remains that throughout almost all historical lands, marriage was between man and woman. And sexual relationships were between man and woman. And again the origin is from God between man and woman as shown in Genesis. And marriage was passed down from Genesis.

  6. Everything you have said is by far the most unintelligent thing I have ever seen in my life. I don't even know where to begin with this much stupidity on one page. (and just in case it gets confusing, im talking about the asshat replying making all of these ludicris statements)

    Just do me one favor and prove to me that your god exists, and we could go from there. and i'm not talking about a 2 thousand year old book, i'm talking hard cold physical evidence that he existed and how most everything humans have done before that have managed to be here before your god. Give me factual proof, and just maybe you can make an ass of yourself even more.

  7. When we are talking in a religious context (or in the context of ones faith) where the argument is being made against claims of Christianity the burden of proof is not on those who are defending but on those who are attacking it. He is defending his faith he doesnt need to convince you God is real.

  8. He can defend his faith without attacking people of any other belief. We are a country founded on freedom and We the People applies to all not just the religious. Discrimination is intolerable for any reason.

  9. I recall many/most of the above liberal comments being made on my college campus back in the 1960's. Hard to determine whether it's a good thing or not... seeing them still swirling around a monkey barrel, pretending to be "enlightened."
    I suppose being an Elder makes a difference because I've already lived maybe two or three lifetimes of some of the liberal writers above.

  10. Sooo.... You're saying marriage IS a religous term since your oldest source is the Bible. Meant to unite families under God. You made that point clear. Thanx