Saints Polyeuct and Nearchos, 3rd Century Lovers and Martyrs.

The Roman soldiers, lovers and martyrs Sergius and Bacchus are well known examples of early queer saints. Polyeuct and Nearchos are not as familiar – but should be.  John Boswell (“Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe“) names the two as one of the three primary pairs of same-sex lovers in the early church, their martyrdom coming about half a century after Felicity and Perpetua, and about another half century before  Sergius & Bacchus .
Like the later pair, Polyeuct and Nearchos were friends in the Roman army in Armenia. Nearchos was a Christian, Polyeuct was not. Polyeuct was married, to a woman whose father was a Roman official. When the father-in-law undertook as part of his duties to enforce a general persecution of the local Christians, he realized that this would endanger Polyeuct, whose close friendship with Nearchos could tempt him to side with the Christians.  The concern was fully justified: although Polyeuct was not himself a Christian, he refused to prove his loyalty to Rome by sacrificing to pagan gods. In terms of the regulations being enforced, this meant that he would sacrifice his chances of promotion, but (as a non-Christian) not his life. Christians who refused to sacrifice faced beheading. When Nearchos learned of this, he was distraught, not at the prospect of death in itself, but because in dying, he would enter Paradise without the company of his beloved Polyeuct. When Polyeuct learned the reasons for his friends anguish, he decided to become a Christian himself, so that he too could be killed, and enter eternity together with Nearchos.

US Military Catches Up With Rest of World, Enters 21st Century.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of this is the final margin – 65 to 31 – and the eight Republican senators who voted for repeal.

The evidence has been growing for months, and this is the most conspicuous result so far: some Republican politicians are realising that homophobia is no longer a sure vote-winner, and may be willing to come down on the side of justice/or common sense.

Bill Browning at Bilerico:

Legislation was passed in Congress not in spite of including pro-gay portions; it was passed specifically in support of our civil rights. This item will be the tipping point that vastly accelerates our community.

This has huge implications for the prospects for advances on gay marriage/civil unions next year, notably in New York and Colorado.

Obama to sign law ending military gay ban

The Associated Press – ?8 minutes ago?

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a historic vote for gay rights, the Senate agreed on Saturday to do away with the military’s 17-year ban on openly gay troops and sent 

Six Republicans push ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ over the top

Politico (blog) – Shira Toeplitz – ?24 minutes ago?

Scott Brown and Lisa Murkowski are among the Republicans who voted to end debate. | AP Photos Close By SHIRA TOEPLITZ | 12/18/10 2:24 PM EST Updated: 

Senate votes to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Washington Post – Ed O’Keefe – ?35 minutes ago?

After the House voted to repeal the policy in mid-December 2010, the Senate took on the issue in an unusual Saturday session. By Ed O’Keefe The Senate voted 

U.S. Senate acts to end military ban on gays

Reuters – ?36 minutes ago?

WASHINGTON Dec 18 (Reuters) – A majority of the US Senate on Saturday voted to repeal the ban against gays serving openly in the US military. 

Senate Votes To End Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Huffington Post – ?47 minutes ago?

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted 65-31 on Saturday to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, defeating a 17-year policy of banning gay and lesbian service members from 

Senate repeals ban on gays openly serving in military

CNN International – Ted Barrett – ?48 minutes ago?

By the CNN Wire Staff Washington (CNN) — The military’s prohibition of openly gay people serving within its ranks is one step closer to ending, 

Senate votes to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Los Angeles Times – Lisa MascaroMichael Muskal – ?52 minutes ago?

The 65-31 vote means gays and lesbians will be able to serve openly in the military without punishment after President Obama signs the bill. Sen. Related articles

The Fall of Rome, Reality Based History – and Gay Adoption

The vocal opponents of family equality are fond of making sweeping statements (in flagrant disregard of the evidence) about how marriage has “always” been between one man and on woman, how the proponents of equality are “redefining” evidence, quite ignoring the ways in marriage has been constantly redefined in the past – not least by the Christian churches. A variation on the theme has been that homosexuality has destroyed great civilizations, such as that of Rome. Illinois state Rep. Ronald Stephens has repeated this claim, blaming “open homosexuality” for the fall of Rome.

In a fun, sane response in the Chicago Sun-Times, Neill Steinberg dismisses the claim, basing his response on, well, historical fact, not what he calls Stephens’ talking points. His most important observation is that the best known extensive study of the fall of Rome, Edward Gibbons “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire“, concluded that Roman civilization collapsed not because of homosexuality, but because of – guess what? Christianity.

Would that be a argument to ban Christianity today, for fear that it could cause the collapse of modern Western civilization?

The point I want to make is not that Gibbons was either right or wrong, but to heartily endorse Steinberg’s larger point, that grand claims about the lessons of history really ought to be checked against the facts. This is certainly true in the secular sphere, but also in religious discourse. The often -repeated Vatican claims of Catholic “constant and unchanging tradition” are a smokescreen, often used to used to hide the importance of recently introduced changes, as Martin Pendergast noted recently, writing about gradualism in Benedict’s theology.

But today, I do not want to explore this theme of the Church’s constantly changing tradition. Let’s just enjoy, instead, Steinberg’s thoroughly delightful response to rep Stephens’ ignorance. Here are some extracts: Read the rest of this entry »