The Journal of Modern History offers historical evidence, including documents and gravesites, suggesting that civil unions between gay men may have existed there six centuries ago, and known as affrèrements (which translates to brotherment).
The effects of entering into an affrèrement were extensive and legitimized the couple as a union of two agreeable people. The documents closely resemble modern marriage contracts.
Allan Tulchin of Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania says:
“All of their goods usually became the joint property of both parties, and each commonly became the other’s legal heir.
“They also frequently testified that they entered into the contract because of their affection for one another. As with all contracts, affrèrements had to be sworn before a notary and required witnesses, commonly the friends of the affrèrés.”
In cases where the affrèrés were single unrelated men, these contracts provide “considerable evidence that the affrèrés were using affrèrements to formalize same-sex loving relationships.”
Tulchin concludes, “I suspect that some of these relationships were sexual, while others may not have been. It is impossible to prove either way and probably also somewhat irrelevant to understanding their way of thinking. They loved each other, and the community accepted that.
The religious right typically uses history as an argument for continuing the modern version of marriage. This new study sets a strong historical precedent for gay and lesbian civil unions.