John Boswell (left) with his life-partner Jerry.

There are often many unsung heroes of history whose lives made a tremendous impact even though their names are not widely known today.

Yale Professor John Boswell was one such figure whose work had a profound effect on LGBTQ rights in America.

The documentary “Not a Tame Lion” takes a look at Boswell’s life and work and his impact on the same-sex marriage debate in this country.

Boswell was a renowned medieval historian and linguist whose mastery of several dead languages gave him unique insight into ancient texts.

He was also an out-and-proud gay man during the 1980s in an era when discrimination against the LGBTQ community was rampant.

Boswell’s most important work was at the intersection of religion and gay rights. His book “Same-Sex Unions in Medieval Europe” was the crowning achievement of his career in which he was able to access restricted Vatican archives to prove that the Catholic Church performed same-sex union ceremonies for hundreds of years in the early days of the church.

Boswell’s scholarship was so unassailable that it proved that the view of homosexuality as a “sinful lifestyle” was a relatively recent development in the history of Catholicism.

One of the most interesting aspects of Boswell’s life that is depicted in “Not a Tame Lion” is his strong faith and his being a devout, practicing Catholic throughout his life. So while he was critical of the church, his faith never wavered and saw no reason for homosexuality and Christianity to be at odds.  

The film features accounts from Boswell’s closest family, friends and colleagues as Boswell himself passed away from AIDS in 1994 and never got to see the full impact of his work on LGBTQ rights.

The film does suffer from Boswell’s absence as what snippets we do see of him through recorded lectures show him to be a dynamic and charismatic individual and leaves you wanting to hear more directly from this brilliant scholar.

“Not a Tame Lion” does do its job of telling the story of an impressive person who looked to history to improve the lives of a marginalized community in the present.

“Not a Tame Lion” is not rated.

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