Mass. Town OKs Polyamorous Relationships; Not Everyone Is Happy

SOMERVILLE, Mass.—For some, September 15, 1890 probably ought to be a holiday. That’s the day when Wilford Woodruff, then president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (better known as the Mormons) declared that his church would no longer approve of the polygamous relationships that had been part of its DNA since the religion was formed earlier in the century. The renunciation was in part a move to help Utah become a state, which happened about five years later. But times change (though many Mormons did not), and though most states have laws on the books outlawing plural marriage (the legal form of polygamy) and even multiple people living together, one town in Massachusetts, which became the first state to legalize gay marriage, voted on June 25 to include polygamy/polyamory in its new domestic partnership ordinance. One purpose of the ordinance was to open the door to allowing people who are non-blood/non-married who live together to be able to visit their hospitalized partners who may be sick with coronavirus. “People have been living in families that include more than two adults forever,” noted Somerville, Mass. City Councilor JR Scott, who suggested adding “polyamorous relationships” to the ordinance. “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,” adding that he knows of “at least two dozen polyamorous households in Somerville.” “Folks live in polyamorous relationships and have for—probably forever,” said Somerville City Councilor Lance Davis, who supported that portion of the ordinance. “Right now, our laws deny their existence and that doesn’t strike me as the right way to write laws at any level. Hopefully this gives folks a legal foundation from which to have discussion. Maybe others will follow our lead. “I don’t think it’s the place of the government to tell people what is or is not a family,” he added. “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.” It’s the first ordinance of its type in the U.S., though in mid-May, Utah decreased its punishment for polygamy from a felony to an infraction similar to a traffic ticket, and there’s certainly a possibility that some more progressive states may decide to follow Somerville’s lead—but not if the Religious Right has anything to do with it. “Of course it was never going to stop with same-sex couples,” Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Ryan Anderson told the Catholic News Agency. “Once you redefine marriage to eliminate the male-female component, what principle requires monogamy? “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,” he added. “And those redefinitions have no principled stopping point.” Indeed, in Robert Heinlein’s 1966 novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, the author assumed that by the early 21st century when the moon was first colonized and the crowded conditions played havoc on personal relationships, pretty much everyone in the lunar colonies would be part of a plural marriage. Blogger Jonathan Van Maren of LifeSite News agreed with Anderson’s view. “Once marriage was redefined and placed in a panoply of morally acceptable romantic arrangements, it was only a matter of time before the number of partners would mean as much as the sex of the partners,” he wrote, referring to both the Utah decision and Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. “Which is to say, nothing. Even promiscuous multi-taskers can demand that the government endorse and financially support their sexual arrangements.” “I warned about this years ago and was mocked for saying it, but if love is love, why not legally recognize polyamorous relationships?” tweeted religious conservative Dr. Michael L. Brown, a frequent contributor to, on July 2. “Well, a Massachusetts city has done just that, ‘broadening the definition of domestic partnership to include relationships btw. 3 or more adults.'” On the other hand, Lauren Evans of reports that “Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said that he has only received positive feedback thus far.” Polyamory supporters at San Francisco Pride March 2004, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

written by: Mark Kernes

source: Mass. Town OKs Polyamorous Relationships; Not Everyone Is Happy | AVN

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