The earliest church, in Rome and in the Slavic countries, recognised some forms of same sex union in liturgical rites of ”adelphopoein” . It is not entirely clear precisely what was the precise meaning of these rites. They were clearly not directly comparable to modern marriage – but nor were the forms of heterosexual unions at the time. Some claim that they were no more than a formalised friendship under the name of ”brotherhood” – but many Roman lovers called themselves “brothers”. Some of the couples united under this rite were certainly homosexual lovers, but it is possible not all were. What is certain, is that the Church under the Roman Empire, for many years recognised and blessed liturgically some form of union for same sex couples. As late as the sixteenth century, there is a clear written report of a Portuguese male couple having been married in a church in Rome.
This recognition also extended to death. From the earliest church until at least the nineteenth century, there are examples of same sex couples, both male and female, being buried in shared graves, in a manner exactly comparable to the common practice of married couples sharing a grave – and often with the parallel made clear in the inscriptions.
The modern Church likes to claim that in condemning same sex relationships, and resisting gay marriage and gay clergy, it is maintaining a long church tradition. It is not. To persist in this claim, in the light of increasing evidence from modern scholars, is simply to promote a highly selective and hence dishonest reading of history.