Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

September 9, 2010

Canada: Court case attracts wide attention to polyamory

When the lawyer for the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association appeared in court yesterday he made news across Canada and beyond, even though the test case to weigh Canada's extremely broad anti-polygamy law won't begin until November 22nd. (If you're new to this, catch up here.) The CPAA is one of more than a dozen "interveners" in the case who will present evidence for and against the law, or at least the breadth of its wording. But so far the CPAA seem to be getting the most attention.

The lawyer is John Ince, reportedly poly himself, and by all accounts he did a very able job in court and in the media. With all the attention, says one Canadian poly activist, "Everybody is asking 'What is polyamory?' and getting helpful answers."

First up, a wire-service report:

Group wants to know position on sex law

By The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - The lawyer for a group that advocates for allowing multiple spouses wants to know if a law against polygamy could also apply to his clients.

John Ince, who represents the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, told British Columbia Supreme Court Wednesday that polygamy is based on a patriarchal system, while polyamorous relationships are consensual.

Ince, who practises polyamory, said that such relationships can involve a group of males and females and that members can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgendered.

Ince is asking the attorney generals of B.C. and Canada to decide where polyamorous people stand compared to those practising polygamy, saying about 0.5 per cent of people across the country are part of polyamorous relationships.

"We oppose laws that oppose loving, consensual relationships," he said outside court.

Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada bans polygamy, and offenders can face five-year prison terms.

Lawyer Deborah Strachan, who represents the federal government, said various issues have to be settled by the court before anyone can determine if people in polyamorous relationships are immune from prosecution.

Craig Jones, a lawyer for the B.C. attorney general, said there's no legal definition for polyamory and the word is debated even among people in such relationships....

Ince said polyamorous relationships "encourage sharing" and joint decision-making, while polygamous ones focus on male dominance, where "you hoard women, you hoard wealth."...

Read the whole article (Sept. 8, 2010).

[Update, Sept. 17: The judge turned down CPAA's request to have the B.C. and federal attorney generals state their positions on the legality of polyamory. Article.]

A story about CPAA appeared on the front page of the Vancouver Sun. It's by Daphne Bramham, a longtime opponent of the Fundamentalist Mormon polygamist leaders in Bountiful, B.C., who are at the center of the case (she wrote a book against them, Lives of the Saints).

Polyamorists want court to declare group love legal

By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun columnist

Is polyamory the new gay? That’s what John Ince and the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association would have us believe.

They define polyamory as a post-modern, secular, non-patriarchal, conjugal relationship that involves a panoply of sexual groupings and gender variations. Ince even suggests that it’s non-sexual and is based in love (amore), not sex.

The groupings can be triads, quadrants or more. A grouping could have one heterosexual woman, two men and a bisexual female. It could be all women or all men. It could include transgender and transsexual persons.

It’s an anything-goes kind of relationship, as long as everyone is a consenting adult, participating in a spirit of love and harmony.

Nirvana? Maybe. Maybe not.

But what Ince and the association want is nothing less than the sweeping legal and social reform that occurred in 1967.

That’s when Pierre Elliott Trudeau, as justice minister, declared that “the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation” and that “what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code.”

Trudeau’s omnibus bill decriminalized sexual behaviour that had made being homosexual illegal, and it made abortion easier....

But polyamorists aren’t going the political route yet. Instead, they hope to accomplish reform through the constitutional reference case to determine whether Sec. 293 of the Criminal Code — the anti-polygamy section — is legal.

The attorneys-general for British Columbia and Canada argue that the harms caused by polygamy — from child brides, to boys being forcibly evicted to make the arithmetic work, to psychological and economic harm to both women and children — justify the infringement of rights.

But polyamorists hope to convince Chief Justice Robert Bauman of the B.C. Supreme Court that their egalitarian, consensual relationships are nothing like polygamy as practised by fundamentalist Mormons or Muslims.

...But before they’ve even submitted their arguments or lined up witnesses for the reference case, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 22, the polyamorists went to court Wednesday asking Bauman to order the attorneys-general to outline their positions on polyamory and make them available to the five polyamorists who filed detailed affidavits about their families.

When that didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, Ince asked Bauman to craft an order “collaboratively and collegially” that would somehow cause the attorneys-general to be more specific about whether the polyamorists might be prosecuted.

Bauman reserved judgment.

...Polygamy may not survive the constitutional challenge. But polyamory as the new gay? It seems unlikely. But it could be.

And it’s one more reason this case deserves public attention.

See the whole article (Sept 8-9, 2010; it appears online under a different title). Bramham has been the lead newspaper writer on this case from the beginning, but she seems to be confused by the polyamorists showing up and complicating things; she has made careless reporting mistakes and seems to be out of her depth.

In the Sun chain of Canadian newspapers:

Polygamy test case ramping up

By Mindelle Jacobs, QMI Agency

The unusual test case on the constitutional validity of Canada’s anti-polygamy law hasn’t even begun but the pre-trial jousting suggests it will be quite a show.

...The polyamorists don’t support the FLDS polygamists in Bountiful, B.C., emphasizes Ince. But they don’t think free love among consenting adults should be criminalized. “It’s a growing movement. People say that polyamory is the new gay.” Who knew?...

Whole article (Sept. 7, 2010).

As usual, some of the most in-depth reporting comes from Xtra, Canada's chain of gay & lesbian papers:

Group wants Crown to disclose its definition of polyamory

But BC Supreme Court reserves ruling in leadup to polygamy case in November

By Jeremy Hainsworth

...CPAA lawyer John Ince told Bauman the attorneys general for Canada and BC have not delineated what their thinking is on the polyamorists.

That, he said, makes it hard for him to prepare a case.

..."We clearly fall outside the definition of the offence. If there are other elements, please specify," Ince said.

...If polyamory is found to be criminal, offenders could face five years in prison.

But, Ince added, evidence filed by the attorneys general contains no direct evidence pertaining to polyamorous relationships in general, or the five described in affidavits the CPAA itself has filed.

"We are asking why the polygamists get all the details. We get nothing," Ince told Bauman. "Give us the facts. What are the harms associated with polyamory? We'll proceed from there."

But, countered Crown lawyers, that is the point of the reference.

BC Crown Craig Jones and federal Crown Deborah Strachan argued that what Ince is asking for is a detailed analysis of the law before the case starts in November.

Strachan said the ruling Ince seeks could be used as an immunity from prosecution in the future. That would be a violation of the right to prosecutorial discretion in Canada, she added. She said the Crown's opposition is not an attempt to take the CPAA by surprise or hold its cards close to its chest. They will get the position of the attorneys general on this point in due course, she said.

Jones added there is currently no legal or psychological definition of polyamory....

...A so-called amicus, or friend of the court appointed to represent the interests of the FLDS, spoke in favour of the CPAA motion. Amicus lawyer Tim Dickson said the reference itself is the constitutional challenge a polyamorist who is charged under Section 293 could ordinarily use in such a case.

"Is polyamory a crime or not?" asked Dickson. "The polyamorists have a lot at stake in this reference."

Dickson said Ince is "simply asking" the legal position of the attorneys general so he can respond to it.

As part of Ince's submissions to the court, he included a survey of polyamorous relationships.

Of 188 people in polyamorous households that responded, 112 were currently living in one or more households in a conjugal union of three or more people....

The total number of women was 167, while there were 158 men and 40 self-identified as other....

Ninety-nine respondents had no minors under 19 in their households. Another 53 households had one or two minors, while 17 had three to six minors. Two identified as having seven or more minors.

Sixteen of the unions of three to five people were reported to have been sanctioned by a rite or ceremony, contract or consent other than a legal marriage. Another 30 conjugal unions of three to four people were reported, indicated by a verbal or written agreement....

Read the whole article (Sept. 8, 2010).

Ince also appeared on the widely listened-to Christy Clark radio show. From the promo: "You’ve heard of polygamy, but what about polyamory? It's the practice of having more than one intimate, consensual and committed relationship...." Listen here; jump ahead to start at 6:10. (The audio may disappear in a month, on October 8.)

An article appeared on MAARS.net, "the global legal network" for human rights, with an out-and-proud photo; this article is mostly taken from the others above. It adds, quoting Wikipedia,

Polyamory, often abbreviated to poly, is sometimes described as consensual, ethical, or responsible non-monogamy. The word is occasionally used more broadly to refer to any sexual or romantic relationships that are not sexually exclusive, though there is disagreement on how broadly it applies; an emphasis on ethics, honesty, and transparency all around is widely regarded as the crucial defining characteristic.

Read the whole article.

And this afternoon the story made a GLBT paper in Boston, The Edge:

The ’New Gay?’ Polyamorists Pursue Legitimacy.

by Kilian Melloy

...Bramham wrote, polyamory is seen by its advocates as "the way of the future," and to an extent, the way of the present as well....

...For many people, any form of relationship falling outside the male/female pair-bonding model tends to be grouped into one amorphous category. An essay on polyamory at blog The Writerly Life notes, "Other ’kinks’ have come and gone as the primary target of "polite" society’s moral outrage--homosexuality, orgies, swinging--and forged, in some people’s homes, an uneasy truce. Polyamory, then, might be the last taboo--possibly because many people can barely navigate the obstacles of one relationship, let alone several....

Whole article. (Sept. 9, 2010).

Overseas, on what seems to be an India news site based in the U.K.: Polyamory Group Goes to Court for Legalization.

More to come, for sure. As I've said, this is the poly movement's biggest legal initiative since Loving More took on the April Divilbiss child-custody case in 1998-99.


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OpenID richard said...

Quite honestly, I think everyone is making a very big mistake in making such a stand against polygamy by making it smaller than it is. Making such a difference between polyamory and polygamy will lead to problems later when, for example, a MFM triad (which obviously doesn't have the "traditional" patriarchical form) wants to get married together. Portraying polygamy the way it seems to be done in these articles will just reinforce the stigma it already has instead of broadening into including all forms of polygamy (polyandry, polyginy and polyandroginy, not to speak of group marriages).

September 10, 2010 4:32 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

"Ince, who practises polyamory, said that such relationships can involve a group of males and females and that members can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgendered."

This quote is broken: it makes being transgender sound like a sexual orientation. Which is not only inaccurate, but likely to reinforce the view that being trans* is a sexual kink (and thus, trans* people shouldn't be obviously trans* in public, because it is tantamount to exhibitionism). Of course, the same argument is still commonly made about people in homosexual relationships engaging in even the most tame PDAs. Still, the fact that there is nothing inherently sexual about being trans*, while this quote implies that there is, remains.

I wonder if this is a reporting/paraphrasing mistake, or if Ince is actually making the mistake.

September 10, 2010 11:10 AM  
Blogger Desmond Ravenstone said...

IMHO the distinction which needs to be made here is whether the relationships are consensual.

That being said, there are groups like the Apostolic United Brethren which engage in fully consensual polygyny (one man with more than one wife). And I'm sure there can be instances of coercive non-monogamous relationships which don't fit the religious polygyny model.

Sounds like what Ince and CPAA are saying is that the current anti-polygamy law does not make this distinction, much to the disadvantage of consenting polyamorists.

September 11, 2010 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saskatchewan Family court judges have sanctioned married persons claims to also have simultaneous common law spouses. Therefore, there is no reason married persons cannot also have multiple same time civil marriages as the rights and oligations of civilly married and "common law married" are identical in Saskatchewan and covered u nder the same legislation.

September 14, 2010 10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found the article to bias against polygamy, and falsely identify all polygamists as FLDS. Polygamy is just one form of polyamory provided it is consensual adults.

September 15, 2010 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Cara said...

I'm also worried about the whole demonizing of polygamy. I would personally like to one day be able to marry both of my partners, but if we polyamorous people continue to disassociate ourselves with the '-gamy' suffix then it may make it a lot harder in the future for us to be able to actually marry those we would like to. While I know not every poly person out there wants to get married, this one certainly does. Desmond Ravenstone is right, the distinction has to be about consensual relationships vs non-consensual relationships not on their configuration, status or suffix.

September 19, 2010 10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you move to Saskatchewan you can marry one partner and have a recognized "common law cohabitation" marriage at the same with the other man (or as many as you want). You will be "cohabitating as spouses" which is covered under their family law as legitimate and recognized in family courts of law.

September 22, 2010 2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Methinks the Saskatchewan judgements pave the way for participants to get five years in the slammer, including the judge that assisted with recognizing the subsequent spousal relationship. If I quess correctly, the judge actually created the subsequent spousal relationship by sanctioning it, by hearing the matter and declaring them to be spouses whilst one or both of them were already married under the laws of Canada. In any other province in Canada a married person cannot have another spousal relationship (that would be adjudicated in family law courts) without it being declared void. One spouse at a time in Canada, judge or no judge. If FLDS bishops cannot sanction subsequent spouses, then neither can a Saskatchewan judge!

September 23, 2010 9:33 AM  

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