One of the most notable instances of the societal acceptance of
marriage between persons of the same sex is the tradition of the
Native American "berdache marriage":
"Many societies have traditions of recognizing and supporting families
outside of the heterosexual/child-rearing model. The important role of
the berdache in many Native American nations provides a useful
example. Berdache typically were men who dressed as and performed the
roles of women but also acted as healers and spiritual leaders,
integral to everything from childrearing to mediating disputes between
tribal members. Berdache often entered into marriages with other men
in the tribe and sometimes with female warriors who had 'proven' to be
men through their fighting skills. Several tribes also recognized
women who filled similar gender-bending roles. In all eases, a
berdache was a valued and important member of the tribe, contributing
greatly to its success and ability to survive."
Humanist: The need for full recognition of same-sex marriage
"According to a statement from the executive board of the
11,000-member American Anthropological Association, more than a
century of cross-cultural anthropological research provides 'no
support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable
social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual
institution.' Instead, anthropologists have concluded that 'a vast
array of family types, including families built upon same-sex
partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.'
Reached at her office at Albion College, in Michigan, AAA president
Elizabeth M. Brumfiel cited the 'widespread' Native American berdache
tradition (in which males assumed female roles and married other
males) and the existence of 'sociological males' (women who assume
male roles) among the Nuer of Sudan as examples of ways that societies
have condoned same-sex marriage without collapsing."
Boston Globe: Multicultural marriage
"When French Jesuit missionaries found men among the Iroquois who
dressed and acted as women, they called them berdache, incorrectly
equating them with male prostitutes.
Many scholars now prefer the term 'two-spirit.' American Indian
languages had a variety of terms -- winkte (Lakota), nadleeh (Navajo),
hemanah (Cheyenne), kwid-(Tewa), tainna wa'ippe (Shoshone), dubuds
(Paiute) and lhamana (Zuni) to identify "a person who has both male
and female spirits within," notes Lakota scholar Beatrice Medicine.
Anthropologists such as Elsie Parsons long ago observed that
two-spirited men often married other men. Even earlier, William Clark
told the first editor of the Lewis and Clark journals that Hidatsa
boys who showed 'girlish inclinations' were raised as women and
Roundup: Historians' Take on the News
"Where monogamy - just one spouse - is the norm, there are
nevertheless examples of marriage between two people of the same
biological sex: two men or two women. This is the case in many Native
American societies that recognize a third gender, the berdache, who is
anatomically male but spiritually neither male nor female. A berdache
may live with a man, fulfilling the role of wife.
In societies where descent is traced through the males of the family,
keeping the lineage going is more important than restricting marriage
to one man and one woman. Among the Kwakiutl Indians of the Pacific
Northwest, a man may marry the male heir of a tribal chief as a means
of inheriting certain privileges from his father-in-law.
Similarly, a Nuer father in Sudan who has only daughters may ask one
of them to adopt the social role of a man and take a bride. The female
'husband' then selects a male mating partner for the wife. Any
children born to the wife refer to the 'husband' as father and become
heirs of the paternal grandfather."
Berkeley Daily Planet: Marriage ?American Style? Not the Only Way to Go
"In North America, [Roger N.] Lancaster points to Native American
cultures that allowed men to marry other men, if one partner underwent
a ritual that assigned him a woman's responsibilities. In the 1800s,
Lancaster says, two women could live together and be spoken of as a
Two examples from elsewhere in the world are the Nuer people of Sudan
in Africa, who allowed women to marry other women, and the samurai
warriors of Japan, who sometimes married other men, he says."
Newhouse News: U.S. Marriage Model Is Not Universal Norm
Here are some interesting discussions of the history of same-sex marriage:
The History of Same-Sex Marriage: PREMODERN WESTERN CULTURES
The History of Same-Sex Marriage: NON-WESTERN CULTURES
My Place: Always a Man and Woman? Not True.
Google search strategy:
Google Web Search: "history of same-sex marriage"
Google Web Search: "same-sex" marriage berdache
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