This is a question that might be pertinent as states continue to debate whether there ought to be such a thing as “same-sex marriage,” a legal category that has just come into force in Minnesota. The reason the question may be raised as the debate continues has to do largely with the work of John Boswell, a historian who passed away back in 1994, but who was the author of two books in 1980 and 994 that truly helped press the idea. He argued that a rite known as “brother making” was actually a rite of “same-sex marriage.” Well, he literally wrote “same-sex union,” but that phrase was consistently compared to “heterosexual marriage,” so “same-sex marriage” is what he meant (at least in today’s terms), even if he was trying to be a little reserved in how he wrote.
Here is one response to the whole debate worth reading and considering:
In addition, I would add that Boswell does some eisegesis (reading into) the sources by implicating a sexual component to a brother-making rite between monks. The historical texts do not insinuate a sexual component. In order to claim they do, he assumed “brothers” has a very broad definition (in order to include homosexual lovers) and “wedding ceremony” a very narrow definition (in order to make all parallels to the marriage rite point only in a sexualizing direction).
My point here is not that there were not homosexuals in the past. There were. Nor is my point that it is impossible that any two monks committing to one another as brothers could have engaged in such acts. It’s certainly possible. My point is simply that one is making quite the stretch if one wishes to call adelphopoiesis “same sex marriage” (or even “same sex union” with an explicitly sexual component)–quite the stretch. Boswell definitely demonstrated that there was always a homosexual “sub-culture,” if you will, within Christian societies (for his historical work was on more than merely the brother-making rite) but when it comes “same-sex marriage,” one is on better ground to argue for a “progressive” approach than to claim the Orthodox Church has a same-sex marriage rite. The reality is, we do not and the reality is, our bishops would not allow such a thing (which must be distinguished from whether someone can have a homosexual orientation and be Orthodox–for he/she most certainly can).
What this means for the legal enterprise in America? Probably very precious little, but to the degree that the question is raised, it might be helpful to know that Boswell’s work on this particular rite is not as one-sided and definitive in favor of a same-sex marriage ceremony as some people might claim.