Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan



March 21, 2012

"Bountiful Controversy May Affect Threesome"

Vancouver Courier

Following the Canadian court decision last November that upheld Canada's anti-polygamy law — but narrowed it to cover only formal marriages that are created by a sanctioning institution — a triad household in Vancouver that's prominent in the local poly community is not quite sure where it stands.

Today a Vancouver newspaper profiles the household at length. The writer, Peter Tupper, is friendly to poly and once worked for John Ince, the attorney who argued before the British Columbia Supreme Court that modern polyamory should be exempted from the polygamy law.

So it's surprising that Tupper doesn't mention Ince's take on the court's decision or seem to consider it. Ince says that polys are basically off scot-free — because the judge defined group "marriage" narrowly. It's not a marriage unless it's granted by some kind of sanctioning institution or authority (even if that's just a cult leader with power over his followers), regardless of any self-created ceremonies, rings, vows, wedding cake, or other trappings. A key point: If the people involved in it can make it cease to exist by simply walking away from it — i.e. without obtaining some kind of divorce or annulment from a sanctioning authority — then it's not a marriage, it's a friendship. And it's legal in Canada.

See Ince's letter to the community about this. However, the judge was less than clear about a number of things in his 357-page ruling (at one point he says "I am not definitively defining “marriage”; it is not my task [in this case] to do so"), so Ince's analysis of the ruling awaits a test in court. But I doubt that such a test is ever going to happen, unless some nutty Canadian prosecutor goes off the deep end.


Bountiful controversy may affect threesome

Swinging experiment evolved into 'emotional attachment'

[This subtitle was later changed to "Despite legal barriers, a Vancouver polyamorist 'triad' quietly continues their unusual union"]


By Peter Tupper

John, Louise and Eric have a family that is a little complicated.

John and Louise are legally married but have each other's permission to date other people, and John currently has a girlfriend. They also have one six-year-old son, and another 10-year-old son from John's previous marriage.

Louise is also in a relationship with Eric, and the three of them formalized their triad in a commitment ceremony in 2010. Eric, in turn, has a 13-year-old daughter from his previous marriage.

The three of them live in an East Side house with the six-year-old son and frequent visits from their other two children. [The hands in the picture here, which the newspaper used, are not theirs.]

John, Louise and Eric practise polyamory, a form of ethical non-monogamy. However, the controversy over the fundamentalist Mormon polygamists in Bountiful, B.C. may put their family under legal scrutiny, because of an old, rarely used law forbidding non-monogamous relationships....

Vancouver supports an active polyamory subculture, with social gatherings and online discussion groups. John, Louise and Eric often host potlucks in their house for other people interested in polyamory, mostly white people in couples but also singles, from a wide variety of backgrounds. About 40 people attend each month. "We're actually looked at as a model," says John.

On the back porch of their house, John, Louise and Eric (not their real names, for the sake of privacy) talk about their nontraditional family over beers and cigarettes while their youngest son sleeps inside....

...The triad says it's important to view their relationship as an ongoing improvisation, not a fixed blueprint. "When we come up on things that we're not sure about, we sit down and talk about it," Louise says. Issues such as jealousy are resolved through negotiation and mutual trust....

John, Louise and Eric formalized their relationship with a commitment ceremony in August 2010. "We exchanged rings, we had vows, we had a marriage in all the traditional senses, apart from a justice of the peace and apart from a priest. We had a moderator," says John. They plan on drawing up documents regarding custody of children and division of assets.

John, Louise and Eric's commitment ceremony could put them, and everybody who attended, in trouble because of a 120-year-old law and a small community of fundamentalist Mormons. "Based on the legal interpretation, everybody at the ceremony is liable for legal action," says John.

The small town of Bountiful is a community of fundamentalist Mormons who practise another form of non-monogamy, "spiritual" or "plural" marriage of one man with multiple wives (technically known as polygyny). Unlike polyamorists, who advocate consent, conflict resolution through negotiation and egalitarian values, Bountiful is strongly patriarchal with power concentrated in the male head of the household....

...On Nov. 23, 2011, Chief Justice Bauman released his 357-page decision on Section 293. Instead of striking it down as the polyamorists and their allies hoped, Bauman upheld the law, though he said it should not be applied to minors, which is what the attorney general wanted. He also said that the law does not cover the various forms of consensual, non-monogamous relationships known as polyamory, which is a partial victory for polyamorists.

However, Bauman's decision also says formal marriages, legally recognized or not, with more than two people are against the law. This includes both the Mormon fundamentalists with multiple wives of Bountiful, B.C., and polyamorists who have formalized their relationships with ceremonies.

That means that John, Louise and Eric could still be charged with polygamy, as could anyone who had attended their commitment ceremony. While the triad doesn't believe its family is in immediate danger, it is upset about the decision.

John says, "In our situation, we are one of those groups of polyamorists that [the decision] is not a victory for. We did participate in a ceremony. While it wasn't legal or religious, we had a full ceremony, we had rings, we had cake, we had guests, we had a ceremony."...


Read the whole article (March 16, 2012). Tupper also wrote about the household more briefly last November.

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