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 partnerships 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, Anderson 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.