Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

June 2, 2024

Finally, a genuinely poly movie coming (queer too). The last word on the "Challengers" movie. Six new fiction books for summer reading. The AARP gets it. And, many upcoming events.

But first, four announcements:

  It's just six weeks to the annual Week of Visibility for Non-Monogamy July 15 - 21. This ambitious project is inspired and coordinated by OPEN, the 2½-year-old Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Non-monogamy.  Start your planning.

Last year's single Day of Visibility, the first, was a surprisingly large success. Thousands of people gathered for celebrations put on by local folks in over a dozen cities and/or opened up about their non-monogamous identities online. The people and communities who held these events told OPEN in followup brainstorm sessions that they wanted the day expanded to a week. So it's happened.

"The Week of Visibility is a movement-wide week of action dedicated to amplifying non-monogamous voices, identities, and experiences in order to dismantle stereotypes, promote acceptance, and celebrate how far we’ve come!"

OPEN suggests the following coordination of daily themes for people with the flexibility to do it:

Monday, July 15: History & Culture
Tuesday, July 16: Identity & Inclusion
Wednesday, July 17: Myths & Misconceptions
Thursday, July 18: Public & Private
Friday, July 19: Law & Advocacy
Sat-Sun, July 20-21: Action & Events!

Plan what you or your group might do, large or small. Go to OPEN's How To Participate page. And get on their mailing list if you're not on it already.

♥ June 4, this Tuesday, brings OPEN's next Town Hall online meeting, for activists to learn more about what OPEN is up to and get a say in it. One hour long. Starts at 4 pm Pacific, 7 pm Eastern. RSVP to join or to get a copy of the recording.

"Town Halls are an opportunity for [OPEN] to share updates about our work advancing rights and acceptance for non-monogamous families and relationships. But more than that, it's an opportunity to connect and share your own ideas with a community of passionate people advocating for diverse relationship structures."   

  June 15: Online poly education/discussion fundraiser, featuring about 20 of our poly-movement public figures, to raise medical aid money for the ongoing civilian catastrophe in Gaza, population 2.2 million with no escape. The event is hosted by the UK's Leanne Yau, the prolific good-poly advocate and social-media star known as Poly Philia. Says Leanne, "The event itself is about polyamory education, but all proceeds go to Medical Aid for Palestinians."

Register here. You choose what to donate. The session will run from 2 to 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (UT minus 4 hours).

  As always, you can find the next 12 months of polyamory/ENM conventions, campouts, and other regional community gatherings at Alan's List of Polyamory Events.  Any missing? Let me know! Write to alan7388 AT gmail.com


And now, on to polyamory in the news.

●  National Anthem is, at last, a genuinely poly movie that's soon to release. Trailer is up"A queer love story plays out in a country western setting in... Luke Gilford's story about cowboy Dylan (Charlie Plummer) meeting a polyamorous couple. (Mashable, May 14)

This indie movie, which premiered at the 2023 SXSW Festival, "opens in select theaters from July 12 and nationwide from July 19." IMDb page.

By Kristy Puchko

...Co-writer/director Luke Gilford found inspiration in his experiences as a queer kid coming up in a rodeo family and his professional photography capturing queer rodeo. National Anthem is a tale not of culture clash but of culture combining. Through the story of a lonely young man, this drama explores a side of Americana that is rural and rhinestones, true grit and truly gay. There, he will not only find his first love, but also himself. 

Charlie Plummer stars as Dylan, an introverted 21-year-old cowboy who... meets the burly Pepe (Rene Rosado) and the breezy Sky (Bros' Eve Lindley). 

Deep down a dirt road in New Mexico, this polyamorous couple owns a ranch called House of Splendor. There, they live with their found family, which includes gay and trans members as well as a nonbinary drag queen with a fairy godmother vibe (The Sandman's Mason Alexander Park). From day one, Dylan can't help but stop and stare in awe of these free spirits, who ride horseback in shimmering gowns, dance about in their underwear unashamed, and laugh loud and proud like no one in his home has ever. But it's radiant Sky who steals his heart. 

As the group welcomes him into their fold — and to the queer rodeo where they compete for shiny belt buckles — Dylan begins to come out of his shell. A bit of blue eye makeup there, a no-judgment conversation there, and soon he's happier than his mom has ever seen him. This raises her suspicions....

The screenplay... is light on plot, focusing half-heartedly on Dylan's infatuation with Sky — and to a lesser extent, Pepe. They will flirt, fuck, and share their feelings.... The chemistry between this threesome is heady and hot, reminiscent of European movies of the '60s and '70s, with a glossy polish of perfectly gorgeous leads and a warm color palette that relishes flushed flesh. However, this movie is bigger than their romance — and is not concerned with labeling its characters within the LGBTQ spectrum.

The film gives voice to its reticent protagonist, the kind of cowboy too often overlooked in country western culture. Dylan's longing isn't hidden among the subtext of gunplay, like in Howard Hawks' Red River. His desire has neither twisted him into a vengeful parody of hetero-machismo, like in The Power of the Dog, nor bent him into a muttering, miserable figure of tragedy, as in Brokeback Mountain. And it hasn't instantly transformed him into a glittering gay cowboy icon, like Lil Nas X in Old Town Road.... Surrounding Dylan at the rodeo, there is only love — in a dizzying montage of crop tops and cowboy hats, burly bears making out as their belt buckles bump, while a resplendent Black drag queen in a sequined gown and crisp ten-gallon hat sings the national anthem. ...

While many, many narratives of queerness in America — especially those set in traditionally conservative spaces — center on tragedy, National Anthem is about queer joy. ... It's not a rallying cry, but instead a firm declaration of existence and the pursuit of happiness.

National Anthem actors  (IMDb / Corey Nickols)

●  Speaking of movies — here, in stark contrast, is the last word on the Challengers movieIt's poly-baiting! Leanne Yau (Poly Philia) nails it cold in one minute:

●  Elsewhere: NPR's "All Things Considered" airs a three-minute report on the poly civil-rights protections that passed in Oakland and Berkeley: Polyamorous families are recognized and protected in Oakland, CA (May 31). ATC talks to attorney Diana Adams of PLAC, Oakland poly household member John Owens, and on the anti side, California Family Council vice president Greg Burt. 

●  Thinking about polyamory? You’re not the only one. So says Canadian philosopher Carrie Jenkins (University of British Columbia) in an article on The Conversation (May 22) that's being reprinted in various media. The Conversation is a site where academics post popular articles about their work that other publications may reprint for free.

Carrie Jenkins
Polyamory — being open to having more than one romantic partner at the same time, with everyone’s knowledge and consent — is on the rise, particularly among people below the age of 45.

Yet at the same time, we’re told that younger people are increasingly turning away from romance and dating. On the face of it, these trends appear contradictory. Does Gen Z want multiple partners or none at all? What is going on?

Seen through the right lens, however, they are really two symptoms of the same underlying cause. A fundamental change is underway: our society is learning to respect more diverse visions of a “good life.”

We can break this down by looking at each trend on its own terms. ... Both represent approaches to life that do not presume or prioritize a traditional relationship. ...The only relationship style that does come with a prescribed formula is monogamy.

 ...We should not be overly optimistic about this. Nuanced representations of polyamorous relationships and single life are still lacking, and the stigmas are still very much a reality. It’s also expensive to live alone, and most of our social and legal structures are still designed around the assumption that all relationships are monogamous.

[But] the two apparently contradictory trends — young people being more likely to choose polyamory and more likely to choose being single — give me optimistic feelings that the kids are alright. Taken together, these trends suggest young folks are increasingly resistant to the pressure to be in a “normal” relationship, and that they are finding value in a more diverse range of lives and loves.

Existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir tells us that authentic love must be grounded in an appreciation of each person’s full selfhood: their freedom to become who and what they choose. She said that in 1949. Perhaps we are starting to listen.

●  Also from Canada, on CBC Radio: Ontario Today with Amanda Pfeffer: Why does polyamory work for you? (51 minutes, May 29).

 "Ontario Today is joined by two guests: Stacey Smith? (sic) is a mathematics professor at the University of Ottawa in the faculty of science. She's a polyamorous trans woman and runs a polyamory meetup in Ottawa. We're also joined by Samantha Manewitz. Samantha is a Toronto-based registered social worker and sex therapist. And specializes in sexual diversity and LGBTQ issues."

●  Are you getting their mail yet? The AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, starts hitting your mailbox at age 50 retired or not. Thirty-eight million people get the chatty, advice-filled AARP Magazine, the largest-circulation print publication in America. Its website claims 22 million unique visitors per month.

The website, at least, interviewed several of our best authors and educators for the article below (April 26). It presents dutifully researched, realistic advice that's good for any age.

Valero Doval 
By Robin L. Flanigan, AARP

...Monogamy isn’t for everyone. ... Twenty-five percent of men and women age 40 and older engaged in consensual nonmonogamy or polyamory [at some point], and 29 percent report that having sex with more than one person at the same time is their most common sexual fantasy, found AARP’s “Ageless Desire: Relationships and Sex in Middle Age and Beyond” report, published in September 2023.

But most older adults interested in open relationships aren’t looking for one-night stands, says Kathy Labriola, author of Polyamorous Elders: Aging in Open Relationships [2022]. Rather, they’re searching for an ongoing, casual, sexual or romantic relationship that allows them to feel comfortable and emotionally safe.

Those relationships aren’t easy to manage, says Labriola, a nurse based in Berkeley, California. ... “A nonmonogamous relationship requires ... your time, your energy, your willingness to be vulnerable and take risks, and your willingness to communicate — a lot — with your partner and any other partner you get involved with.”

If an open relationship is something you’re engaged in already or considering, it’s important to think through and communicate with your partners what you want out of it.

Here are six tips for starting and maintaining a healthy open relationship.

Ask yourself why you want an open relationship.

This act of self-reflection is critical, experts say. “The biggest problem I see is that people sort of stumble into these situations not really knowing what it is they’re looking for, or what they hope to gain from it, or what they hope to experience,” [Labriola] says. ...

Communicate with your partner clearly and gracefully.

Be clear about your expectations from the get-go, but do so with sensitivity ... says Los Angeles-based Tristan Taormino, author of Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships. One way to “get into the pool through the shallow end” is by mentioning you read an article about it online, she says.

You can also ask open-ended questions, says Robert McGarey, founder and executive director of the Human Potential Center in Austin, Texas, and author of Polyamory Communication Survival Kit: The Essential Tools for Building and Enhancing Relationships.

Some examples: How do you feel when you think of that? ...

Both partners, he says, should practice self-awareness and active listening — hear and then respond in an attempt to understand — and bring a win-win attitude to the conversation.

McGarey proposes summarizing with, “Let’s work together as a team to craft a relationship structure that really, really works for us.... [Let’s] get creative to see what’s possible.”

As with all relationships, once in an open one, honesty and steady communication remain necessary to avoid discomfort and pitfalls. ... Good communication also is necessary for the more practical side of things, including age-related sex challenges, side effects of medications that affect sexual desire, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

Start off slowly – maybe with swinging...

Focus on equity, not equality...

A lot of people focus on making sure everything is equal in relationships, but successful open relationships tend to focus more on equity, says Devine, who is based in San Francisco. ...“It’s about what each person needs and wants,” Devine says. ...

Be prepared to deal with jealousy...

According to Taormino, jealousy often is about an unmet need. ... 

Bottom line: Think about love as always expanding, not limiting.

...“Don’t approach nonmonogamy thinking, This is going to take away something from my life,” [Taormino] says. “It should actually create closeness for everyone."

There is a certain freedom that comes with aging,” she says. “You’ve had all these life experiences and you have all this knowledge, and also you’re still willing to grow and change. Nothing is ever ‘too late.’ And you may actually, throughout your life so far, have found that monogamy doesn’t work for you.”

●  On Book Riot, 2024 is the Year of Queer Polyamorous Books, and I’m Here for It writes Danika Ellis (May 30). "The dynamic between three (or four, or five, or…) people is so much more complex and fascinating to read about than a romance between two people.

She gushes about about Really Cute People by Markus Harwood-Jones, Triple Sec, a romance by T. J. Alexander; Boyfriends Volume Two, an anime graphic novel by Refrainbow;  Death’s Country by R. M. Romero ("a queer, polyamorous, Latine YA retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice set in Miami");  Infinity Alchemist by Kacen Callender ("a queer, trans, polyamorous YA book set at a magic school"); and Evocation by S. T. Gibson ("a psychic lawyer has to team up with his ex-boyfriend and his ex-boyfriend’s wife to fight an ancestral deal with the Devil that is closing in on his soul.")

●  In LGBTQ Nation: Therapists are blaming polyamory for patients’ problems. These researchers want to change that (May 28). It's about the American Psychological Association Division 44's Committee on Consensual Non-Monogamy (new just a few years ago), its work to educate therapists, and its co-chairs Heath Schechinger and Amy Moors.

According to one study of 249 individuals in various forms of ethically non-monogamous relationships, therapists suggested, among other things, that their relationships were the direct cause of mental health issues and parroted misogynistic tropes such as “women can’t do non-monogamy.” ...

One-fifth of participants said their therapists had little or no active knowledge of consensual non-monogamy and that they had to spend a lot of time trying to educate them.

●  Poly/ENM fascination is spreading not just in North America but throughout the English-speaking world, the only part of the world I can follow. For instance, a long piece in the New Zealand Herald and/or its local affiliates: 'Situationships', 'throuples', 'ethical non-monogamy': The shift in modern relationships (May 18). It also mentions an upcoming national TV report. 

By Carly Gibbs

Five years ago, ethical non-monogamy was a blip on the sexual radar in New Zealand. Now, thanks to the growth of social media and taboos around sex dropping, there’s increased ‘permission’ to be sexually curious.

Anna... a Bay of Plenty singleton, [describes the current] usual male dating profile. In the ‘more about me’ section, [the man will] be upfront about his marital status and that his partner knows he’s seeking another woman’s companionship.

“Some of them, it’s not just sex for fun; they’re looking for genuine second partnerships with other women and still have their first partners,” she says.

...NZ sex therapist Jo Robertson [says] she sees some clients who feel prudish if they aren’t permissive. “There is this subtle theme of needing to be open and exploratory all the time and some negative connotations with doing the mainstream. I spend a lot of time with clients establishing that it’s okay to say ‘no’ to things.”

Ethical non-monogamy, opening up, or adding others to “play” to reignite or keep erotic excitement between a couple, is a “high-risk” relationship practice for feelings of betrayal or pressure, Robertson says. 

...[Tauranga sex therapist Terri] Ewart agrees, saying the mistake too many couples make is adding in a third to save their relationship.

...Alternative relationship configurations can work, but Ewart says it often depends on robust conversations beforehand and a person’s attachment style (secure, anxious, disorganised, or avoidant).

“You’ll find that most people who go into this space generally live in the most securely attached portion of our population.”

[Says Sophie, in her late 30s] “As a woman, we are often socialised to be preoccupied with our partner’s sexual needs – and here I was given full consent to explore my desires.”

“For those curious, please don’t just wing it,” she says. “Educate yourself.”

Her advice is to develop care, communication, consent skills, and good time management skills to navigate the complexity of multiple dynamics. ...

Four days later in the New Zealand Herald: What is ethical non-monogamy? From throuples to open relationships, everything you need to know (by Michelle Kasey, May 22, paywalled).

●  From Nigeria, a triad interview: Love Life: We Went From an Open Relationship to Polyamory (Zikoku, May 30)

Dumebi* (27) and Oyin* (24) met and started dating in 2022. They decided on an open relationship three months later, until he met Peju* (26). In this week’s Love Life, the three talk about falling in love with two people, how easy it was to transition into polyamory and what it’s like to be a throuple in Nigeria.

●  Another country heard from: I Have A Partner And So Does My Husband: Woman Details Polyamory In Malta (Lovin Malta newspaper, "your inside track to everything about the Maltese Islands," June 1)


Meanwhile, the struggle maybe starts to turn Ukraine's way...

...as described by Russians here. We can hope they're right, after more than six months of the pro-Putin half of the Republican Party starving Ukraine of essential war supplies  to all appearances, in hopes that this free, newly Europe-oriented country would be overrun by the Russian conquerors.  Because authoritarians should rule everywhere. The congressional list of shame. Their logjam is now broken.

Here is why I've been ending posts to this polyamory news site with the Ukraine situation: I've seen too many progressive movements die out, or get wiped out, because they failed to scan the wider world accurately and understand their position in it strategically.

We polyamorous people are a small, weird minority of social-rule breakers. Increasingly powerful people call us a threat to society — because by living successfully outside of their worldview, we expose its incompleteness.

Our freedom to choose our relationship structures, and to speak up for ourselves about the truth of ourselves, is just one way we depend on a free and pluralistic society that respects people's dignity to create their own lives, to access facts, and to speak of what they know.

Such a society is possible only where people have reasonably good power to govern themselves, combined with legal structures that are at least supposed to guarantee the rights of all.

Vote for Ukraine Aid protest signs outside the US Capitol
Innovative people, communities, and societies who create their own lives, and who insist on the democratic structures and legal rights that enable them to do so safely, infuriate and terrify the authoritarians who are growing in power around the world and in our own United States. Now with direct mutual support, which is increasingly unhidden.

Such rulers and would-be rulers seek to stamp out other people's freedom to choose their lives — by intimidation, repressive laws, inflammatory disinformation and public incitement, weaponizing police abuse and stacking courts, or eventually, artillery.

For what it's worth, Polyamory in the News received more pagereads from pre-invasion Ukraine over the years (56,400) than from any other country in eastern Europe.

You can donate to Ukraine relief through this list of vetted organizations (last updated Oct. 2023). We're giving to a big one, Razom, and to a little informal one, Pizza for Ukraine in Kharkiv, the project of an old friend of my wife.

But that is only the start. For those of us born since World War II, this is the most consequential war of our lifetime. Because we have entered another time when calculating fascism, at home and abroad, is rising and sees freedom and liberalism and social tolerance as weak, degenerate, delusional  inviting easy pushovers. As Russia thought it saw in Ukraine. The whole world is watching what we will do about it.

The coming times may require hard things of us. We don't get to choose the time and place in history we find ourselves born into. We do get to choose how we respond to it. 

Need a little help bucking up? Play thisAnother version. More? Some people on the eastern front trying to hold onto an open society. (TW: war is awful.) Maybe your granddad did this from a trench against Hitler's tanks — for you, and us, because a world fascist movement was successfully defeated that time, opening the way for the rest of the 20th century.

But the outcome didn't look good for a couple of years then, either. Popular history remembers the 1945 victory over the Nazis and the joyous homecoming. Less remembered are the defeats and grim prospects from 1941 through early 1943.

Remember, these people say they are doing it for us too. They are correct. The global struggle between a free, open future and a fearful revival of the dark past that's shaping up, including in our own country, is still in its early stages. It's likely to get worse before it gets better. The outcome is again uncertain, and it will determine the 21st century and the handling of all its other problems.


PS: Ukraine should not be idealized as the paragon of an open democratic society. For instance, see If Ukraine Wants To Stand for Liberty and Democracy, It Should Rethink Some of Its Wartime Policies. And it has quite the history of being run by corrupt oligarchs — leading to the Maidan Uprising of 2013, the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, and Zelensky's overwhelming election in 2019 as the anti-corruption candidate. So they're working on that. And they're also stamping hard on the old culture of everyday, petty corruption.  More on that.  More; "Ukraine shows that real development happens when people believe they have an ownership stake in their own societies."

Now, writes US war correspondent George Packer in The Atlantic, 

Here was a country with a tragic history that had at last begun to build, with great effort, a better society. What made Ukraine different from any other country I had ever seen—certainly from my own—was its spirit of constant self-improvement, which included frank self-criticism. For example, there’s no cult of Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine—a number of Ukrainians told me that he had made mistakes, that they’d vote against him after the war was won. Maxim Prykupenko, a hospital director in Lviv, called Ukraine “a free country aspiring to be better all the time.” The Russians, he added, “are destroying a beautiful country for no logical reason to do it. Maybe they are destroying us just because we have a better life.”

They have a word there, with a deep history, for the horizontal, self-organized, mutual get-it-done that grows from community social trusthromada. Learn that word. It's been keeping them going  to the extent they've been able. We polyfolks often dream of creating something like that community spirit in miniature, in our polycules and networks. Occasionally we succeed.


Social attitudes in Ukraine are mostly traditional, rooted in a thousand years of the Orthodox Church. But not bitterly so like often in the US; in the last generation the ideal of modern European civil society has become widely treasured, and social progressivism has room to thrive. The status of women has fast advanced, especially post-invasion. More than 43,000 women volunteer in the armed forces, flooding traditionally male bastions — including as combat officers, artillery gunners, tankers, battlefield medics, snipers, and infantry. (Intimidating video: "Thus the Witch has Said".) Ukraine has more women volunteering in combat positions than any other armed force in the world.
Some LGBT folx in the armed forces display symbols of LGBT pride on their uniforms, with official approval, whereas in Russia it's a prison-worthy crime for even a civilian to show a rainbow pin or "say gay." A report on Ukraine's LGBT+ and feminist acceptance revolutionsAnotherAnotherAnother. War changes things.

And in December 2022, Russia made it a crime not just to speak for LGBT recognition in Russia or occupied Ukraine, but to speak for "non-traditional sexual relations." Belarus, a Russia subject state, has followed suit. Pre-invasion, Russia had a visible polyamory education and awareness movement.

Polyfolks are like one ten-thousandth of what's at stake globally. Ukraine must have our full material backing for as long as it takes them to win their security, freedom, and future. Continue to speak up for it.
A Russian writer grieves: "My country has fallen out of time."

Ukrainian women soldiers in dense undergrowth
Women defenders on the eastern front

PPS:  U.S. authori-tarians, such as Sen. Ted Cruz, are saying that allowing women in front-line roles is a woke plot to weaken America's armed forces. Ukraine puts that shit to bed. Do you have a relative who talks like that? Send them this video link to Vidma, who commands a mortar platoon, recounting the story of one of their battles near Bakhmut.

Update April 22, 2024: A year and a half later Vidma is still alive, still with her mortar unit, and posting TikToks. They are now at the front in, it looks like, the battle for Chasiv Yar. A young girl who looks high-school age showed up to join themAnother. Their lives, and their promising society, depend on us. 

And maybe our own? Says Maine's independent Senator Angus King (Jan. 31, 2024),

Whenever people write to my office [asking why we are supporting Ukraine,] I answer, 'Google Sudetenland, 1938.' We could have stopped a murderous dictator who was bent on geographic expansion…at a relatively low cost. The result of not doing so was 55 million deaths.


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May 22, 2024

And another city! Berkeley just banned discrimination for "family or relationship structure"

Berkeley City Hall: Massive office building in yellow light of a low sun.
Berkeley City Hall (City of Berkeley photo)

Last night Berkeley, California, prohibited  landlords,  schools, businesses serving the public, city officials, or "any person or agent or employee thereof" from discriminating "against an individual on the basis of that individual’s family or relationship structure."

The Berkeley law applies to, and defines, four areas for this protection: housing, educational institutions, city and city-supported facilities and services, and use of business establishments. It also specifies some exceptions. Here is the law's full text (starts on page 6).

For decades this kind of discrimination has plagued people in polyamorous relationships, costing them their homes, jobs, and other things as found in surveys of the poly community. Two-thirds of polyamorous people say they have experienced discrimination because of their relationships.

Berkeley joins neighboring Oakland as well as Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts, in enacting similar measures in the last 14 months. 

The Berkeley group PolyActive had tried to pass something like this starting seven years ago. City Council member Terry Taplin, the bill's author, said PolyActive "played a pivotal role in the advocacy for the initial 2017 bill and continued to support the current efforts. Their local insight and community mobilization efforts underscored the immediate need for legal protections within Berkeley."

17 people, mostly middle ages and older, gather behind a polyamory infinity-heart flag outdoors in a park
Members of PolyActive on July 15, 2023, OPEN's first international Day of Visibility

But the big credit goes to the legal and policy whizzes at the national Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition (PLAC), who crafted the law. In addition, the international Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Non-monogamy OPEN) helped PolyActive mobilize the local community. The groups worked proactively with the Berkeley City Attorney's office to ensure that there were no legal glitches in the legislation. The City Council approved the bill unanimously on "first reading" May 7th, then again on "second reading" May 21st, thereby enacting it into law.

In December 2017 PolyActive got a similar measure past first reading in Berkeley — it would have been the first in the country — but that one didn't make it to second reading. This time, with experience and PLAC's expert legal work, the ducks were in a row.

Where will be next? Contact PLAC if you'd like to try to get this measure or something like it passed in your city or town.


As it happens, Sparkle Moose and I attended a reception put on by PLAC at the Harvard Law School last Saturday evening. The six PLAC principals were just off their second annual high-intensity, in-person planning retreat, hosted by Harvard Law's LGBTQ+ Legal Advocacy Clinic. They were full of plans and ideas — for non-discrimination ordinances in more cities, involvement in other areas of the legal system, recruiting more lawyers and volunteers for various projects, building out their anemic social media presence and website, and hiring office staff. They are beating the bushes trying to fundraise for all this.

Five PLAC principals celebrating outside the Somerville, MA, City Council chamber
on March 23, 2023. From left: Kimberly Rhoten, Heath Schechinger, Alexander
Chen, Diana Adams, and Andy Izenson.  (Matthew J. Lee/ Boston Globe)

The larger picture here goes beyond polyamory and non-monogamy. The ordinances also protect traditional multigenerational families living under one roof, single-parent families, platonic co-op households of mutual support, and others. With housing in cities becoming ever pricier and in shorter supply, and with the isolated husband-wife-kids home becoming an ever smaller fraction of reality, alternatives must be allowed to grow. Polyfolks have kick-started these legal initiatives but will be a minority of those who benefit.

A new force in this direction will be the Modern Family Institute, a project of Heath Schechinger and others that seeks to raise $5 million for research and policy efforts over the next three years. It is explicitly about this larger picture:

Modern Family Institute logo: Graphic of a tree with roots and spreading leaves
MFI logo

Families and relationships come in all shapes and sizes.

But our society is not designed to support how people are structuring their families and relationships today. 

Our laws, built environment, and cultural norms were established to support a monogamous nuclear family structure that does not reflect the needs of families and relationships today. Families that don’t center two married adults often face significant infrastructural, legal, and financial hurdles, as well as stigma and discrimination.

The Modern Family Institute seeks to bring about a world where families and relationships are defined by their function, not their form. 

Our vision is to improve relational, mental, and physical wellbeing by ensuring everyone has access to resources and systems of care supporting their unique family and relationship structures. Our research drives systemic changes in legal, financial, housing, and social systems through supporting media representation, policy reform, and professional practices that help people build and sustain flourishing communities of care. 


●  OPEN just put out a press release:

The good news just keeps coming! ...

Our gratitude to Berkeley Councilmember Terry Taplin, who sponsored the bill, and to our friends at the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, which drafted the ordinance. Coalition partners also included PolyActive... The Modern Family Institute, Chosen Family Law Center, Harvard Law School LGBTQ+ Legal Advocacy Clinic, and Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, and the many community members who added their voice.

...There can be no doubt that this is our moment, and that the future of this growing movement is bright.

But let's be clear: the population of these four cities represent a fraction of a percent of the total US population. The unfortunate fact is that most people are still not protected from stigma and discrimination on the basis of their non-monogamous identity or their family structure. There is much more work to do...

And we're here to do that work. OPEN is collaborating with coalition partners to develop new tools and resources to help community members like you bring these protections to your city or town. We're speaking with community leaders and elected officials in multiple cities to keep the momentum going. We're talking with the media to spotlight this issue and the growing power of our movement.  ...

And, they too need money.

●  The local Berkeleyside published a long article on the measure's passage, highlighting an eight-person co-op family that, with multiple incomes, can afford a house in the pricy Berkeley Hills neighborhood, ranked as one of the most desirable locales in the state: Berkeley law extends legal protections to polyamorous people and non-nuclear families (May 22)

Housemates Steph Tranovich (left), Lily Lamboy, Alexei Savtchenko and Kmo Mogg
chat in their co-op kitchen before dinner. (Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight)

By Ally Markovich

...Dave Doleshal... began organizing conferences on polyamory in Berkeley at a time when it was less accepted than it is today. ... Being open about his polyamorous identity, he was often turned down by landlords. At conferences, he heard stories of people being evicted, fired or passed up for promotions at work based on their relationship structure. With other polyamorous people, he considered advocating for a law to protect their rights, but didn’t get far.

Over time, Doleshal has seen polyamory and other diverse relationships become more accepted in Berkeley. “People who were polyamorous a long time ago, just gradually have started talking about it and being more visible,” said Doleshal, who has lived in Berkeley since the 1990s. He said the ordinance was a major step forward, making other legal protections possible. ...

...The Berkeley law has limited purview. It doesn’t extend to other areas where polyamorous people face discrimination, including the workplace and courts, which would need to be addressed at the state or county level.

...Advocates behind the new law said they hope it starts conversations about the way that monogamy and the nuclear family structure are baked into the legal and social fabric, from healthcare benefits to hospital rules. Eventually, they aim to bring a nondiscrimination bill to the California state legislature.

●  Slate, in anticipation of the Berkeley law passing, published a look at the larger polylegal picture:  L G B T… P?  (May 6)

Polyamory is everywhere these days—except protected under the law. But some advocates have an idea about how to change that.

 Slate/ Tingey Injury Law Firm/Unsplash/ Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty

By Abigail Moss

In case you hadn’t noticed, polyamory is all the rage right now. ... And, lest you think all this hubbub is some ginned-up PR campaign, consider that 4 to 5 percent of people in the U.S. are in consensually nonmonogamous relationships (not always the same thing as polyamory, but pointing in a similar direction), which is comparable to the number that identify as LGBTQ+. Research from the Kinsey Institute shows that as many as 1 in 6 people are interested in exploring polyamory.

For polyamorous folks like myself (I’m in a throuple), there’s definitely a feeling that the tide is changing. ...

Yet, despite all this social progress, the law hasn’t been as quick to catch up with the rise of these kinds of “nontraditional” relationships. And that’s a big problem, because major, negative misconceptions persist among the non-poly public, most of them stemming from the reduction of these relationships to a sexual kink. This, in turn, leads to the belief, for example, that a polyamorous environment is not a safe one for a child, or that a poly relationship is not a serious or valid family structure. For those on the outside, polyamory can still seem like a wild and irresponsible lifestyle—and unfortunately, it’s people on the outside who are making laws and policy for the rest of us.

Indeed, legally, we polyamorous people find ourselves on very shaky ground. ... Depending on where they live, a polyamorous person could be evicted from their home or denied housing because of their relationship style—I know firsthand that private landlords may be less likely to want to rent to a throuple, for example, than a monogamous married couple because of false assumptions that a polyamorous group will be inherently unstable and unreliable. And a poly person could be fired or denied promotions at work due to bias against polyamory (whether that’s the stated reason or not) —without the company facing the same legal ramifications they likely would if they terminated someone’s employment on, say, the basis of sexuality.

Which raises an interesting question: Should polyamory be recognized as a sexuality under the law? And what might be gained, or lost, by such a recognition? There is a lot of debate in the polyamorous and LGBTQAI+ community as to whether poly should “count” in this way. But with so many poly folks believing that their polyamory is not something they chose, but rather an innate part of themselves, running a legal gauntlet on an everyday basis can feel exhausting and more than a little censorious. 

...Dr. Eli Sheff is a sociologist and expert witness on cases involving families who have unconventional setups, including polyamorous ones. She explains that while the legal changes happening at a local level are an important step in the right direction, there are limits to how much they’re impacting polyamorous people’s lives nationally:  “The changes in Somerville, for example, only apply to city employees. Somerville can’t legislate that a national corporation must recognize your polyamorous relationship. So poly people remain extremely vulnerable.... On the national level, it’s wholly inadequate.”

Andy Izenson knows firsthand how this feels. “It’s been an expensive year,” they say, referencing medical bills that they and their two partners have all had to deal with after suffering different illnesses. They faced limitations on how much they could claim from their insurance companies because they are not in a more traditional relationship. Izenson, the senior legal director at the Chosen Family Law Center, is an attorney and mediator specializing in representing queer families, including polyamorous ones, and transgender people. I asked how polyamorous people might begin to advocate for themselves. Izenson explains that often, dealing with situations in a personal, one-to-one way is best. “For example, if three parents need to be able to pick their kid up from school, going to the school, speaking to the principal, trying to work things out that way is sometimes the best. You have to think about what systems in society you really need to be interacting with.”

...[In states ] such as Florida and Alabama, polyamory is effectively criminalized through bigamy statutes. And considering cases of parents losing custody battles because of their polyamorous relationships, a person might rightly think very carefully before coming out to a school principal, boss, or co-worker.

This is a shame, because we really don’t have anything to hide. Dr. Heath Schechinger, co-founder of the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition... [asked] 175 people engaged in nonmonogamous relationships to list the benefits of their relationship structure. Responses included gaining a greater social and support network, fostering greater honesty in their relationships, and having greater autonomy and independence in their lives. Sex-related benefits ranked as only the eighth most-cited reason. Polyamorous people such as myself already know this—my partners and I argue over what to watch on Netflix and remind each other to feed our cats, just like any married couple. But while these misconceptions persist, they’re a major blocker to legal reform.

Schechinger says that although it may not be possible for everyone, visibility is a vital first step in improving rights for polyamorous people: “I think if you have the privilege of being able to come out as polyamorous, it’s important to consider doing so,” he says. “We are in an era where we’re on a precipice of significant change.”

...Schechinger feels that the dam is about to break. “We are putting together a packet that people can take to their city councilperson and advocate for similar policies to be taken up in their city,” he said. These materials will form a toolkit that will be available in the coming months, and have been created in collaboration with the Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Non-monogamy, Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, Harvard Law LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic, and the Chosen Family Law Center. The toolkit will include relevant research and educational information, case examples, legal insights, and advocacy strategies.

...“It’s comparable to where LGBTQ advocacy was in perhaps the early ’90s,” says Schechinger. And people are getting behind this advocacy in droves.

“One of the problems, one of the beautiful problems, that my colleagues and I have right now is that there are countless numbers of people reaching out and asking how they can get involved and asking how they can offer support. Up until now, a huge part of their lives and their identities was going unrecognized. Finally, now there’s hope for progress. It’s only a matter of time before we see this start to scale.” And after all, what is poly if not the belief that things like understanding and love are capable of growth?

●  Also in anticipation, Yahoo News 360 rounded up opinions pro and con: Should the law recognize polyamorous relationships? (last updated May 20)

triad of legal scales graphic
(Cute graphic, but how does this thing work?)

By Mike Bebernes

People in polyamorous relationships could soon have new legal protections in the San Francisco Bay Area if a bill currently under consideration by the city council in Berkeley, Calif. is passed. ...

Why there’s debate

The words “family” or “partnership” can mean myriad things to people colloquially, but when it comes to the law, they have very specific definitions that typically only allow for two adults in a relationship.

Poly advocates argue that laws limiting a family or domestic partnership in this way leaves those outside that mold vulnerable to discrimination. Nearly everywhere in America right now, there's nothing to stop a polyamorous person from being fired, denied housing, or blocked from receiving certain benefits — like health care — because of their relationship structure. There are also examples of poly people missing out on inheritance or even losing custody of children.

...Though public perception of polyamory does appear to be shifting, that same YouGov poll found that a majority of people still believe polyamory is morally wrong and oppose legal recognition for poly relationships. Opponents frequently suggest that poly relationships are inherently unstable and may be especially turbulent for children in multi-partner households. Many also argue that recognition of polyamorous relationships in things like housing law would be merely the first step of a larger campaign to expand marriage beyond two-person couples.


The question of poly rights is too important to be ignored

“Limited definitions of family are all over the legal system. Laws for domestic violence, rent control, insurance, and … inheritance rely on narrow understandings of the term, which often prioritize biological and marital relationships, and relegate other kinds of relationships.”  — Michael Waters, The Atlantic

The law is built around harmful misconceptions about how poly relationships actually work

“For those on the outside, polyamory can still seem like a wild and irresponsible lifestyle—and unfortunately, it’s people on the outside who are making laws and policy for the rest of us.”  — Abigail Moss, Slate

Society doesn’t have to legitimize every relationship style people conjure up

“Polyamory’s proponents censure those who remain unconvinced that mainstreaming such sexual perversions serves the public interest. We must celebrate each and every sexual aberration green-lighted by the academy, but condemn and exclude any whom the gatekeepers declare persona non grata for their sins against wokeness.”  — Casey Chalk, American Conservative

Denying poly people rights isn’t going to make them go away

“I think it's just important for mainstream audiences to recognize that just because you don't understand it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. There are people who are capable of having multiple romantic connections at the same time, and that is just a thing that is always going to exist, whether you like it or not.”  — Leanne Yau, polyamory educator, to USA Today

Polyamory poses a very real threat to traditional two-person relationships

“We are at risk — culturally and legally — of monogamy becoming a continuously negotiated agreement between partners rather than a universally understood axiom of marriage. When that happens, monogamy gets harder for everyone to ask for and expect; it gets easier to question and devalue. Marital monogamy will recede along with the benefits it offers families and society. That’s a price we don’t want to pay.”  — Alan Hawkins and Daniel Frost, Deseret News

All poly people want is to legitimize the commitments they’ve already made

“If people want to take legal responsibility for each other, that’s a good thing.”  — Alexander Chen, lecturer on LGBTQ+ civil rights at Harvard Law School, to Boston Globe

Without legal protections, polyamorous people have to hide who they really are

“This lack of social and legal acceptance has compelled many polyamorous people to hide their true identity from their coworkers, family, and even closest friends. The danger of living openly means that … polyamory hasn’t found a foothold in mainstream culture, which in turn has created a cascade of confusion about it that needs to be corrected.”  — Caroline Rose Giuliani, Vanity Fair

Poly relationships are fundamentally unstable

“Jealousy is not an emotion invented by men in the 1950s or 1800s to control women. Both men and women are jealous creatures, especially about romantic partners, and we have been since the beginning of recorded history. … This is why every polyamorous community throughout history … has failed. Polyamory just doesn’t work.” — Conn Carroll, Washington Examiner

●  Canada's national CBC News reports, Polyamorous relationships are on the rise in Canada. The law is still catching up (May 8).

"...In 2018, three unmarried adults in Newfoundland and Labrador were declared the legal parents of a child born within their polyamorous family — a legal first in Canada, CBC News reported. Then in 2021, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ordered that all three members of a polyamorous triad should be registered as parents of the boy they were raising together as a family.

"Put bluntly, the legislature did not contemplate polyamorous families [in designing current law]," Justice Sandra Wilkinson said in the decision. ..."


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