'May a Man Marry a Man?' Medieval Canon Lawyers Analyze Same-Sex Unions

24 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2014

See all articles by Charles J. Reid

Charles J. Reid

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)

Date Written: 2014


This Article has two principal purposes. The first is to examine the logic and limits of a medieval debate over same-sex unions. The medieval lawyers who engaged in this debate were no friends of same-sex unions. The debate, rather, seemed to take the form of an academic exercise by which the lawyers involved defined more rigorously the boundaries of what counted as marriage and also imported into the jurisprudence of marriage a deeply-hostile homophobia. I do not assert that same-sex marriage was an actual social reality in the Middle Ages. The existence of this debate, however, is quite remarkable in its own right. The Article’s second major purpose, then, is to reconsider the origins of homophobia. By connecting the canon law of marriage with homophobic rhetoric, the medieval lawyers reinterpreted marriage as an institution that not only served certain ends in its own right but existed to defeat the perceived threat of same-sex relations. This linkage, first articulated in the thirteenth century, unfortunately remains a feature of the contemporary debate over same-sex unions.

Keywords: legal history, same-sex unions, same-sex marriage, medieval history, canon law

Suggested Citation

Reid, Charles J., 'May a Man Marry a Man?' Medieval Canon Lawyers Analyze Same-Sex Unions (2014). U of St. Thomas (Minnesota) Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-02, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2376617 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2376617

Charles J. Reid (Contact Author)

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota) ( email )

MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States

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