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Politics & Policy

Massachusetts City Officially Recognizes Polyamorous Relationships

A goldsmith shows wedding rings in a jeweller’s shop in Vienna, Austria, December 14, 2017. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

A left-leaning Massachusetts city has adopted a domestic partnership ordinance granting polyamorous groups the same rights as married couples.

The Somerville City Council voted unanimously last Thursday to approve the measure, which affords domestic partnerships between two or more people the same rights as spouses, including the ability to confer health insurance benefits and to visit hospitalized partners. 

Councilor Lance Davis wrote the ordinance, telling his fellow council members that “I don’t feel it’s the place of government to define a family,” the Boston Globe reported. Mayor Joseph Curtatone then signed the measure into law on Monday.

Unmarried Somerville residents had expressed concern to the council over their ability to visit sick partners in the hospital and to access partners’ health insurance in light of the coronavirus pandemic. While the ordinance originally defined a domestic partnership as a relationship between two people, Davis altered the measure’s language to include polyamorous relationships just moments before the council meeting at the suggestion of councilor J.T. Scott, he told the Globe. 

“People have been living in families that include more than two adults forever,” Scott told the New York Times. “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 told the Times he knew of at least two dozen polyamorous households in the city of 80,000.

Unlike other cities that had introduced domestic partnership ordinances before same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts in 2004, Somerville hadn’t previously had such a policy.

Davis said he had received many calls and messages of support of the ordinance, including from lawyers interested in shaping a similar measure on the state or federal level. The policy could come under judicial scrutiny if health insurance companies deny the city’s new definition of domestic partnership.

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