Canada: Court case attracts wide attention to polyamory
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.