Ancient Greek marriage laws and same-sex marriage

During the Supreme Court argument session on Obergefell v. Hodges, according to the transcription, Justice Alito had the following exchange with Mary Bonauto, Esq., representing the petitioners:

JUSTICE ALITO: But there have been cultures that did not frown on homosexuality. That is not a universal opinion throughout history and across all cultures. Ancient Greece is an example. It was ­­– it was well accepted within certain bounds. But did they have same-­sex marriage in ancient Greece?
MS. BONAUTO: Yeah. They don’t ­­– I don’t believe they had anything comparable to what we have, Your Honor. You know, and we’re talking about —
JUSTICE ALITO: Well, they had marriage, didn’t they?
MS. BONAUTO: Yeah, they had ­­– yes. They had some sort of marriage.

[p. 14 of the official transcript]

I have some interest in ancient Greek thought, and so I’d like to stop right there for a moment. What sort of concept of marriage did the ancient Greeks have, and is it something we would look to as analogous to our present-day concept of marriage? Continue reading “Ancient Greek marriage laws and same-sex marriage”


Saco, Maine — I’m at Religious Education Week at Ferry Beach, the Universalist conference center in Maine, taking a class in religious education. One of the people in my class had a big church wedding down in Texas several months ago, which wasn’t a legal wedding because she and her wife are both women. With the recent Supreme Court decision against the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA), their advisors told them that they should have another wedding in a state which sanctions same-sex marriage; Maine, of course, is one of those states. So right after class was over, we all walked over from where we were meeting to the chapel in the grove, and there, under the pine trees still dripping with rain from a passing shower, they were legally married in a brief but meaningful ceremony.


Our teacher and one of our classmates were the witnesses who signed the wedding documents. They fed us cake and champagne after the ceremony.

It is worth stating the obvious: one effect of the recent Supreme Court decision is (and will be) marriages like this one; even if a same-sex couple can’t be legally married in the state in which they reside, by getting legally married in a state which recognizes same-sex weddings, they can still access some federal marriage benefits. (And I’m thinking that if I’m asked, I would perform such brief ceremonies for out-of-state same-sex couples at no charge.)

Marriage as a religious act

I received an interesting and thoughtful comment via email on a sermon titled “Marriage as a Religious Act” which I recently posted on my main Web site. I realized that this sermon relates to some issues you, dear readers, and I have addressed on this blog — most importantly, the sexual revolution within Unitarian Universalism, and the theological basis (if any) for marriage in our tradition. Since this is something we have talked about here, and since I greatly value the comments I get from you, I decided to post this sermon and see what you might have to say about it. The sermon beging below the fold.

Continue reading “Marriage as a religious act”

Supreme Court will hear Prop 8 appeal

The Supreme Court has announced that it will hear the appeal regarding the lower court decision to strike down Proposition 8, which repealed same-sex marriage in California.

So there will be no free weddings at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto — at least not until June, 2013, assuming the Supreme Court upholds the lower court’s ruling.

Free weddings in Palo Alto, if Prop 8 goes down!

If the Supreme Court declines to hear the appeal on the lower court’s ruling overturning Proposition 8, same-sex marriage will be legal again in California. And if that happens, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto ( will offer free weddings for one day about a week after the Supreme Court announcement — we’re saying about a week afterwards, because it’s unclear how long it will take Santa Clara County clerks to issue marriage licenses. The deal goes for opposite-sex couples, too.

We can’t set a firm date yet, for obvious reasons. In the mean time, please help spread the word — if Prop 8 goes down, we’ll do free weddings for a day!