Legalizing Polyamory

Jul 25 '2020, 3:13 PM | By Chris

Polyamorous families were handed a huge victory this year in Somerville, Massachusetts. The city, in an effort to expand access to healthcare and solutions during a crisis, broadened the definition of domestic partnerships to include families with more than two adults. This is an important step and it happened in a state that tends to be a leader in championing rights to legally maintain relationships that happen to fall outside of societal ‘norms.’ Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage back in 2004. It took more than a decade for the rest of the country to catch up, many states by force, when gay marriage was declared legal by the Supreme Court in June of 2015. The fascinating aspect of this new approach to domestic partnerships is the lack of insistence on defining your relationship at all. The drafter of the ordinance, Lance Davis, explained that “I don’t think it is 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.” Legalizing polyamory is really legalizing love in all forms. 

Are we on the verge of a new civil rights movement?

The legacy of polygamy in the United States sours many people on the idea of plural marriage or families. It’s understandable when considering religious based polygamous families tended to be more about control than love. Finding or becoming a sister wife historically was not about freedom of choice like it most often is today. The strange practice of marrying off young teenage girls to an adult male, and believing it was God’s will, is rightfully outlawed and viewed as despicable. It’s unfair, however, to place modern polygamists and other polyamorous people in the same box as these unsavory groups of the past. 

Modern polyamory and polygamy are entirely different concepts based on everyone’s basic right to pursue whatever life with the people they love is right for them. People are starting to look at monogamy often with as much mistrust as monogamous people find with the idea of polyamory. If justice can play out in coming years, the worst aspects of monogamy will stop being hidden, or swept under a rug, and we can move away from the patriarchal stronghold we’ve been under for centuries.

Imagine a world where heterosexual, homosexual, monogamous, or polyamorous relationships are not promoted or denounced. Society can reach a place where sexuality and relationships are a free space to explore the right things for each individual. Sexual intimacy doesn’t even need to be a factor, especially when it comes to the people we may choose as a life partner. One exciting factor in Somerville’s decision to recognize polyamorous families is it’s recognition that family is to be defined by individuals, therefore the nature of your domestic partnership is of no consequence under the new ordinance. For years we’ve told everyone that a family can only be one man, one woman, and however many kids they decide to have. The ‘nuclear family’ concept is promoted as the ideal while all other family structures are deemed somehow inferior, or even harmful. Correcting our approach to defining families will save many people from the soul crushing notion of failure that’s difficult to avoid when you aren’t considered ‘normal.’

As much as this new law will pull many families up out of ‘hiding,’ it won’t change as much as people might think. These families existed anyway. That’s the funny thing when laws exist to promote or punish people for loving and living certain ways, they only cause harm while producing almost none of the desired results. It’s better to embrace the reality that relationships and families will always be diverse. They come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re turned off by the idea of polygamy dating, consider this, isn’t it better to accept it rather than sending people off into isolation to do it anyway? Men that are seeking a sister wife aren’t inherently bad by nature (like some might assume) and a woman wanting to be a sister wife is no different than a woman wanting any kind of family of her own. It’s all natural and can be healthy if society can promote honest living instead of forcing everyone into limiting boxes. Polygamous families and polyamorous families will find better protection when they can be part of the mainstream, both legally and personally. The strange cults marrying underage girls to old men didn’t develop naturally. They came from being pushed into isolation and from a few bad seeds taking advantage of communities that either felt helpless or developed Stockholm Syndrome from years of living under such conditions.

Polygamy isn’t likely to get a stronghold in modern culture as much as general polyamory will. That’s also where we’ll find the most progress although we should be sure to include polygamy in the conversation. 

Plural  marriages are just a legal contract away from being the same thing as a poly family. Polyamorous dating has been growing fast in popularity so more and more people are becoming familiar with it and are no longer suspicious about it. Most people under 40 probably know at least one polyamorous family. Ultimately, the overall push needs to focus on offering some kind of recognition and equal treatment for any relationship two or more people decide to form in order to get through life together. Many relationships don't feel a need for any government recognition, but the day will come that it will be vital to protect the legal interests of your loved ones. Legal challenges from conservative groups are very likely in Somerville. It’s definitely a developing story to watch. Whatever the outcome is for now, they’ve opened a door that can’t be closed again. It’s time for all poly minded people and their supporters to start speaking out for fair treatment under the law, whatever that may turn out to be.

Published By: Christopher Alesich 

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