Somerville votes to officially recognize polyamorous relationships


SOMERVILLE, Mass. — At the tail conclude of a Metropolis Council assembly past 7 days, so rapidly and quietly that you could have very easily skipped it, Somerville expanded its idea of household to incorporate persons who are polyamorous, or retaining consenting relationships with many associates.

Beneath its new domestic partnership ordinance, the town of Somerville now grants polyamorous teams the legal rights held by spouses in relationship, this sort of as the appropriate to confer wellness insurance policies rewards or make healthcare facility visits.

J.T. Scott, a town councilor who supported the go, stated he considered it was the very first this sort of municipal ordinance in the state.

“People have been living in families that include more than two adults forever,” Scott stated. “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.”

He stated he understood of at the very least two dozen polyamorous homes in Somerville, which has a inhabitants of about 80,000.

“This is simply allowing that change, allowing people to say, ‘This is my partner and this is my other partner,’” he stated. “It has a legal bearing, so when one of them is sick, they can both go to the hospital.”

Till past thirty day period, Somerville experienced no domestic partnership ordinance, contrary to neighboring metropolitan areas like Cambridge and Boston. It experienced turn into an urgent need to have with the unfold of the coronavirus mainly because inhabitants discovered by themselves not able to obtain their partners’ wellness insurance policies, stated Matthew McLaughlin, the Metropolis Council’s president. He stated increasing obtain to wellness treatment was his urgent worry.

As the council well prepared language for an ordinance past 7 days, Scott lifted the challenge that it excluded Somerville’s polyamorous inhabitants by specifying that domestic partnerships ended up “an entity formed by two persons.”

The councilor drafting the ordinance, Lance Davis, rewrote it to enable for many associates. It handed unanimously.

“I don’t think it’s the place of the government to tell people what is or is not a family,” Davis, who is a attorney, stated at a assembly past 7 days. “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.”

Beneath the new ordinance, town workers in polyamorous relationships would be capable to lengthen wellness rewards to many associates. But it is not distinct, Davis stated, no matter if non-public companies will observe the city’s guide.

“Based on the conversations I’ve had,” he stated, “the most important aspect is that the city is legally recognizing and validating people’s existence. That’s the first time this is happening.”

He stated he experienced deemed the likelihood that a big quantity of persons — say, 20 — would tactic the town and request to be registered as domestic associates.

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

Nancy Polikoff, a professor at American College Washington School of Regulation and a extensively revealed scholar of household regulation, stated she was not informed of any other town that experienced prolonged this sort of protections to polyamorous households.

Andy Izenson, a attorney with the Decided on Relatives Regulation Middle, a nonprofit business that delivers authorized solutions to polyamorous households, stated the ordinance could be set to a judicial check if wellness insurance policies organizations reject the city’s much more expansive definition of domestic partnership. It could also operate into resistance from conservatives, as identical-sexual intercourse relationship did in 2015.

Or it could, as he set it, “fly under the radar.”

“When one area does it, and it serves as a test case, and legislators see that the town or county has not had a culture war implosion,” he stated, “that’s how things spread.”

Scott, the councilman, stated he experienced been inundated by phone calls and messages all working day, such as from attorneys intrigued in pursuing a comparable evaluate at the condition or federal degree.

Beneath the ordinance, domestic associates, no matter if in groupings of two or much more, would not essentially be intimate associates.

Miles Bratton, 47, stated she would take into account forming a domestic partnership with Anne-Marie Taylor, 43, whom she identified as her “platonic lifemate.”

The position would enable them to obtain a property with each other and share rewards, like wellness insurance policies, but also to have exterior intimate associates or increase a 3rd “nesting partner” if they wished. Taylor stated they experienced lengthy held again from registering as domestic associates mainly because the language her office utilised appeared to call for that they be intimate associates.

“That has not felt right, so we haven’t done it,” she stated. “Somerville is coming out and saying, ‘Hey, family can be a lot of other things, other than just two people.’”