Marriage In Malawi

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These two heroes - one dressed as a bride - got married knowing the legal consequences:

Two Malawian men were arrested and charged with public indecency, police said on Tuesday, after becoming the first gay couple to marry in the conservative southern African state where homosexuality is illegal. Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza publicly wed in a symbolic, traditional ceremony on Saturday.

"We arrested them last night at their home and charged them with gross public indecency because the practice is against the law," police spokesman, Dave Chingwalu, told Reuters.

Homosexuality is banned in Malawi and carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

Chingwalu said the two men were likely to face further charges and would be held until further investigations have taken place.

It's almost certainly a response to the global marriage movement for gays that has begun to alter consciousness even in places like Malawi. But same-sex marriage has been an underground fact for centuries, because it is so natural for gay men and women to seek to solidify and bless their love and unions. Here's a passage from Montaigne's notebooks, included in my anthology, that provides some fascinating context for exactly the same thing centuries ago:

On my return from Saint Peter's I met a man who informed me humorously of two things: that the Portuguese made their obeisance in Passion week; and then, that on this same day the station was at San Giovanna Porta Latina, in which church a few years before certain Portuguese had entered into a strange brotherhood.

They married one another, male to male, at Mass, with the same ceremonies with which we perform our marriages, read the same marriage Gospel service, and then went to bed and lived together. The Roman wits said that because in the other conjunction, of male and female, this circumstance of marriage alone makes it legitimate, it had seemed to these sharp folk that this other action would become equally legitimate if they authorized it with ceremonies and mysteries of the Church.

Eight or nine Portuguese of this fine sect were burned.

As ever, Montaigne's dry wit about the naivete of these people is leavened by his obvious support for the activities of this "fine sect." Gay marriage is not new; it is as old as homosexuality, and the human need for love, commitment and companionship. For more examples - from medieval China to nineteenth century Boston, my anthology is comprehensive. Book here; kindle version here.

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