Today In GAY – May 11th: The FIRST Gay Marriage in 54 AD, Billy Bean and The Ladies of Llangollen
54 AD – Nerō Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, or just plain NERO to his friends becomes Emperor of Rome. Nero is know to have married at least one gay male couple in legal ceremonies, with at least one spouse accorded the same honors as an empress. Gay relationships were in fact accepted and institutionalized during this time period. It was not till much later that homosexuality became the big sinful BAD.
1102 AD – The Council of London took measures to ensure that the public, quite tolerant of homosexuality at the time, knew that it was sinful, marking a significant shift in church attitudes towards homosexuality, which previously had been more or less indifference, or very mild condemnation. Many priests were homosexuals, likely one of the causes of the change in attitude, as moral reformers such as Bernard of Cluny called for change.
1250 – 1300 AD – “Between 1250 and 1300, homosexual activity passed from being legal in most of Europe to incurring the death penalty in all but a few contemporary legal compilations.” – John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (1980)
1739 and 1755 – The Ladies of Llangollen – Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby celebrate joint birthdays and shared their lives for a half century. Both Irish aristocrats, they ran away from their native Ireland to live in Wales together. The subject of several excellent books, they seem to have impressed their neighbors as well as London high society.”
1999 – Billy Bean the former outfielder and left-handed hitter for the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Diego Padres makes headlines in when he became only the second baseball player to publicly come out, three years after his retirement. It was a long struggle to get there. As a closeted pro athlete, he struggled to juggle his secret and his career. He divorced his wife in 1993 and secretly moved in with his first lover. When his lover died of AIDS, Bean didn’t attend the funeral because he was too frightened that his secret would be revealed. “Why was it so impossible to think that a baseball player could grieve for a man?” he later reflected. “That was a terrible, terrible decision I made.”
His 2003 book, Going the Other Way: Lessons from a Life In and Out of Major League Baseball, chronicles the ups and downs of his life as a gay man and baseball player. Bean is currently a real estate agent in Miami.