US city gives legal recognition to ‘polyamorous’ couples

A city in Massachusetts, US has redefined the notion of family to include people in ‘polyamorous’ relationships of three or more people.

Somerville created a domestic partnership ordinance allowing non-married couples to share certain legal benefits previously only available to married couples, such as buying a house together and sharing healthcare benefits.

In creating the ordinance, legislators opted to widen the definition of ‘family’ because they said the definition – “an entity formed by two persons” – excluded those in polyamorous relationships.

Multiple partners

Councillor JT Scott claimed: “People have been living in families that include more than two adults forever”, adding that he knew of at least 24 polyamorous households in Somerville – a city with a population of 80,000.

He said: “This is simply allowing that change, allowing people to say, ‘This is my partner and this is my other partner’”.

The councillor who drafted the ordinance, Lance Davis, said: “I don’t think it’s the place of the government to tell people what is or is not a family.

“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.”

Large groups

Davis also said large groups would not be excluded from registering as domestic partners, including groups of around 20 people.

“I say, well what if they do? I see no reason to think that is more of an issue than two people.”

Domestic partners would also not need to be in romantic relationships, meaning that platonic friends or relatives could have the same legal benefits as married couples.

Fluid relationships

US commentator Jonathon Van Maren said: “Once again, a government body is throwing its weight behind a new definition of family—and making a moral statement in the process.

“By claiming that we do not know what a ‘family’ is, they are claiming we cannot know what a family is—and that, by definition, means it is whatever you want it to be. After all, if gender is fluid, why not marriage?”