Massachusetts city recognizes polyamorous ‘civil partnerships’

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 2, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- The city of Somerville, Massachusetts, has broadened its definition of domestic partnership to give polyamorous relationships the same rights as a married couple. 

Someone who is polyamorous is in a relationship with more than one domestic partner. 

City councilor J.T. Scott, quoted in the New York Times, said that he believes this to be the first ordinance of its kind in the United States. Scott was in favor of recognizing polyamorous relationships. 

“People have been living in families that include more than two adults forever,” said Scott, adding that “Here in Somerville, families sometimes look like one man and one woman, but sometimes it looks like two people everyone on the block thinks are sisters because they’ve lived together forever, or sometimes it’s an aunt and an uncle, or an aunt and two uncles, raising two kids.”

Scott was quoted as saying that the new ordinance would legally recognize someone as having more than one domestic partner, regardless of the nature of that relationship.  

“It has a legal bearing,” said Scott, “so when one of them is sick, they can both go to the hospital.”

The city councilor said he knew of at least two dozen people in Somerville who were engaged in polyamorous relationships, though he did not specify how many households they comprised. The city of Somerville has a population of about 80,000, and, until June, did not have any sort of domestic partnership ordinance. The original draft of the ordinance specified that a domestic partnership was between two persons, which was changed to allow for polyamorous relationships. 

“I don’t think it’s the place of the government to tell people what is or is not a family,” said city councilor Lance Davis, who drafted the domestic partnership ordinance. 

“Defining families is something that historically we’ve gotten quite wrong as a society, and we ought not to continue to try and undertake to do so,” said Davis. 

According to the New York Times, the ordinance means that city employees will be able to extend health insurance benefits to more than one partner. It is unclear if private companies will also allow for employees in polyamorous domestic partenrships to share health insurance plans to their multiple partners.

Davis said that he had been told by constituents that they were happy the city will be “legally recognizing and validating” the existence of polyamorous relationships. 

“That’s the first time this is happening,” said Davis. 

Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told CNA that he was not surprised by the latest efforts to redefine marriage to include multiple people. 

“Of course it was never going to stop with same-sex couples,” Anderson told CNA. 

“Once you redefine marriage to eliminate the male-female component, what principle requires monogamy?”

The former cultural norm of marriage between one man and one woman, Anderon said, “was that only one man and one woman could unite as one flesh as husband and wife in the very same act that could produce new life, and then connect that new life with his or her own mother and father.”

“Once the law and culture says the male-female aspect of marriage violates justice and equality, we haven’t ‘expanded’ marriage, we’ve fundamentally redefined what it is. And those redefinitions have no principled stopping point,” he said.

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  1. The city council in Somerville, Massachusetts? What a bunch of stragglers. Here’s some back story—and then some loose ends for the courts:

    FIRST, even before the 2015 Obergefell v Hodges ruling (gay “marriage”) there was already at least one case, in Brazil, of a marriage among three parties which has been given legal recognition. And then a failed application in the United States less than a week after the Obergefell.

    SECOND, earlier in 2012 a young woman in the Seattle area (of course!) donned the veil and “married” a beloved landmark brick building. After all, the only difference between a woman and a man is the plumbing, and even this can be remodeled like any kitchen.

    THIRD, more distant historical precedent had men with multiple wives (polygyny: the common form of polygamy) and likely the equal (!) and opposite case as well, of women with multiple husbands (polyandry).

    FOURTH, it’s been reported that gay “marriage” pre-nuptial agreements can allow polyamorous wandering so long as each party returns to the same permanent address. So, now in Somerville, the males all have the same mailing address, so to speak.

    BUTT NOW, as with the oxymoron gay “marriage,” there’s the pressing legal issue for polyamorous marriages—which party (or parties!) is/are the “husband(s)” and which is/are the “wife (wives)”! Once you trash binary sex and traditional marriage, what principle requires anything at all to be stable?

    Only the courts—and ultimately the United States Supreme Court—can get this quandary off our backs! And consider…if the Supreme Court can stretch constitutional law by footnoting European courts, then why not the above precedents or something else from ancient history? (After all, it is from some such dark place that swing(er)-vote Justice Kennedy fatwa-ed binary marriages as categorically “homophobic.”)

    So, today, perhaps something from second-century Germanic law? Mutual consent not required. Forced marriages by abduction permitted. Musical-chairs (polyamorous) marriages are already in! Who knows, someday by a split decision rape (or even “polyamorous” gang rape) might be redefined as “unilateral outreach” and even taught in grammar school sex-ed classes!

    Thank you, Somerville, for this invitation deeper into the swamp. So many loose ends!

  2. Mr. Beaulieu,

    Perhaps you and many agree that it was folly for American states to have ignored the founding fathers in allowing the state to determine what qualified as “Marriage”, a previously religious sacrament.

    Had that not taken place. Civil unions of any kind would be of little interest to anyone but the participants. Weirdo churches that allowed anything other than monogamous hetero marriages could be dismissed as cults and we’d just move on with our lives. If gay marriage was relegated exclusively to Scientologists, would anyone care?

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