Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

November 29, 2010

"The Downside[s] of Polyamory"

Psychology Today blogs

Some of the difficulties of poly life should lessen in the future, but others are probably permanent, says Deborah Anapol in her latest article on the blogsite of Psychology Today magazine:

The Downside of Polyamory

...I'm the first to acknowledge that polyamory is not a good choice for everyone. In the interest of full disclosure to those who rightly suspect that polyamory can exact a price from those who practice it, I offer the following survey of potential difficulties.

...Some of these, such as social disapproval and discrimination, are artifacts of old structures and institutions that may well diminish in coming years. Others, such as a dearth of positive role models and perhaps even the prevalence of jealousy, are also likely to be temporary. But other difficulties with polyamory, such as the time demands and the emotional complexity of interacting intimately with more people, appear to be inherent to this lovestyle.

For many people, the risk of rejection by family, neighbors, friends, and coworkers is a major drawback to polyamory....

[Such] social sanctions serve to keep couples such as Jonathan and Victoria, who would be potentially excellent role models, safely out of sight. I know of several group marriages and open marriages whose highly functional partners have chosen to keep their intimate lives private....

Nonmonogamous relationships have a reputation for creating emotional chaos and drama.... If partners are able to relate with self-responsibility and integrity, drama need not be part of polyamorous relating. Ethical polyamory is certainly possible. But as long as our culture endorses monogamy and socializes our young people to expect sexual exclusivity, we can expect jealousy to be a major challenge....

...If you are [already] living a difficult and complicated life, you may not want to risk exposure to another possible source of worry.... If emotional upheaval goes with the territory of intimate relating, the chances of emotional upheaval increase exponentially when multiple partners are involved, at least until our brains have been rewired....

Challenges with time management and coordination are probably an inevitable part of polyamorous relating....

Read the whole article (Nov. 27, 2010). It's adapted from her new book that came out earlier this year, Polyamory in the 21st Century.

As for the "emotional complexity of interacting intimately with more people," I've observed something. There are more poly vees (two intimate relationships) than full triads (with three), more triads than quads (with potentially six), and more quads than quints (with potentially ten). The trend: the more complicated the setup, the less often it occurs in nature.

Extrapolate this trend the other way, and the simplest arrangement is the couple (with one). This is why I expect that even in the fully poly-aware and poly-accepting society we'll have by 2050 or 2100, monogamy will remain the most common choice.

Increasingly common variants, however, may be open marriages (monogamy with benefits, which by this time next year is going to be called "the new monogamy"), and intimate networks of people living essentially as singles.

Do you have thoughts about poly-life challenges, either temporary or permanent, to add to Deborah's? Please comment below.



November 25, 2010

“A radical intrusion into the private sphere of life”

Although today was Thanksgiving in the U.S., Canada does its harvest festival in October. So it was a normal business day in the British Columbia Supreme Court, where B.C. Chief Justice Robert Bauman is hearing Canada's anti-polygamy test case.

But this was no ordinary day in the history of the modern polyamory movement, now some 25 or 30 years into its development. Attorney John Ince, representing the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, delivered the most direct and specific defense of polyamory as a legitimate way of life ever presented before such a high court (as far as I'm aware).

By evening the news was all over Canada. On the website of the Globe and Mail, Canada's largest national newspaper and often called Canada's newspaper of record:

Polygamy law a 'radical intrusion into the private sphere of life', court hears


Polyamorist and FDLS lawyers present arguments

The thorny constitutional questions around Canada's polygamy law were highlighted Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court, where lawyers for a polygamous sect and the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association ripped into government arguments in support of the law.

Calling the federal interpretations of the law a "radical intrusion into the private sphere of life", CPAA lawyer John Ince said Section 293 of the Criminal Code — if interpreted and applied in the way supported by the federal attorney-general — would turn polyamorists into criminals.

"This is deeply disturbing to the polyamorous community," Mr. Ince said on the fourth day of a landmark reference case that is weighing the constitutionality of Canada's long-standing — but rarely-used — law against polygamy.

Section 293 would "turn them into criminals for living together in a multi-party, loving relationship," he added...

The article also quotes the lawyer for the Fundamentalist Mormons, who also gave his opening statement today. Read the whole article, later updated (Nov. 25, 2010).

From the Canadian Press news service, and also CBC News:

...The court also heard from a lawyer representing the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, which represents people involved in multiple relationships that aren't connected to a specific religion.

John Ince urged the court to distinguish between the harms alleged to be occurring in Bountiful and polyamorous relationships involving consenting adults who choose to be in relationships with multiple partners.

"There is no evidence in any of the thousands of pages filed (with the court) that polyamory is attracting any social stigma; there have been no prosecutions against polyamorists," said Ince.

"What an enormous harm this is to suggest that the many, many people in Canada who are involved in multiple conjugality situations are criminals and have the risk of having the forces of the state break up their family."

See article (Nov. 25).

In Vancouver itself, The Province has a similar article (Nov. 25).

Columnist Daphne Bramham, a longtime polygamy opponent at the Vancouver Sun, considers the CPAA's side carefully:

Is there good polygamy and bad polygamy? That was the big question raised Thursday....

...Right after [the Fundamentalist Mormons' lawyer Robert] Wickett outlined the FLDS case, John Ince made opening remarks on behalf of the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association.

Ince and the association reject "traditional, patriarchal polygamy ... where men have dominance and women are inferior and where only men have the right to multiple partners."

But he and his clients want an exception made for their practice of polygamy, which is based on the belief of "conjugal freedom" to choose how many partners you have, their sexual orientation and how long you are willing to be with those partners.

What they want is a "surgical approach" that could criminalize folks like the FLDS, while leaving them free to be sexual explorers and innovators who are "incubating a new form of relationship."

Several of the examples Ince used to point out the problems with the law as it's written do give pause.

The attorney-general of B.C. argued earlier in the week that the law as it stands only applies to polygyny — men with multiple spouses, not women with multiple partners or homosexuals with multiple partners.

Using an example of three lawyers, Ince pointed out a male lawyer would be criminalized for having two conjugal partners, but a female lawyer could legally have two male spouses.

The attorney-general for Canada earlier in the week defined polygamy as any relationship involving more than two people that has been formalized by some sort of rite or ceremony.

By that definition, said Ince, three lesbians living together on Commercial Drive would be criminals if they had a party to formally mark their shared love. But if they didn't have a party, they'd be fine.

These broad definitions, he argued, are "as radical an intrusion into the private sphere of life as can be imagined."

Further, Ince said, it goes against Canada's long tradition of respect for diversity, social experimentation and individual freedom within the sanctity of their own home....

Read the whole article (Nov. 26, 2010).

Xtra, Canada's chain of gay & lesbian papers, posts an extensive story:

Don't criminalize consensual polyamorists: lawyer

By Jeremy Hainsworth

By criminalizing consensual polyamorists along with patriarchal polygamists, the BC and federal governments will break up loving families, a Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) lawyer said Nov 25.

"The attorneys general have lost their moral compass," John Ince told a BC Supreme Court reference on the constitutionality of Section 293 of The Criminal Code.

A British Columbia court began hearings Nov 22 to determine whether Canada's law prohibiting polygamy violates basic human rights.

The polyamorists maintain Section 293 infringes on their constitutional rights of association, religion, equality, and the life, liberty and security of the person as outlined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A subsection of the law prohibits any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship.

Ince was one of several lawyers addressing BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman this week.

The case stems from BC's failed attempts to prosecute leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) community in Bountiful, known for its polygamous marriages.

FLDS lawyer Bob Wickett told Bauman the law forces his clients to live as pariahs unable to access legal or health services for fear of being jailed due to their marital status.

...George Macintosh is the amicus curiae, or friend of the court, with the job of arguing on behalf of those who oppose Section 293 of the Criminal Code.

As the law sits now, he told Bauman on Nov 24, "it encompasses polygamy, it encompasses polyandry and it encompasses polyamory."

"The law ignores casual group sex but it criminalizes relationships," Macintosh said.

"This law is not aimed at protecting anyone," he added. "It criminalizes all involved in such relationships.

"Freedom of association is infringed when it is illegal for three or more people to perform what is legal for two people to perform," Macintosh said.

Ince called the polyamorous community a secondary target of the law. The focus of the law is on patriarchal polygyny, he says, where a man has two or more wives simultaneously.

He said that form of relationship puts women in an inferior position, not the case in polyamorous relationships.

Polyamorous relationships of whatever configuration are based on egalitarianism, he maintained.

He said the governments' approach would criminalize loving relationships entered into freely. "This is deeply disturbing to the polyamorous community."

There has been no evidence to show polyamorous relationships cause harm, he continued.

"They are proposing to criminalize a whole group of people without having done any research," Ince said.

Lawyer Doug Christie of the Canadian Association for Free Expression warned the court of the danger of letting government define relationships....

...A host of Christian, children's advocacy, freedom of expression and women's groups are expected to make submissions.

...Polygamy charges currently carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Read the whole article (Nov. 25, 2010).

Also, a discussion with Ince appears in The Georgia Straight, the Vancouver area's alternative paper ("Canada's largest urban weekly"):

Polyamory threatened by B.C. polygamy case

By Shadi Elien

The attorneys general of Canada and B.C., Rob Nicholson and Michael de Jong, want to “criminalize loving families”, according to Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association director John Ince.

...“This is staggering to us not only legally, but more so politically,” he told the Straight by phone. “We think it’s completely untenable — the charter was created to protect precisely that sort of intrusion into the domestic sphere.”

The B.C. attorney general’s opening statement declares that Section 293 of the Criminal Code — which bans polygamy and threatens offenders with five years in prison — should also apply to cohabiting polyamorous families. According to a statement filed by B.C. government lawyer Craig Jones, the problem with leaving polyamory out of the Criminal Code is that “the distinction [between polygamy and polyamory] is not capable of definition for identification and enforcement purposes”.

Ince asserts that it’s ridiculous to think the government can’t distinguish between a patriarchal sect in which women have no rights and modern polyamory.

“Simply ask them one question: ‘do women have the right to marry more than one man?’ ” he said. “And if the answer is no, then bang, it couldn’t be any simpler.”

Federal and provincial lawyers have advanced the position that multiple conjugal relationships are harmful to the state, and in particular to women and children.

But Ince pointed out that the same concerns were once expressed about same-sex and interracial marriages. He called the governments’ arguments in this case a “huge step backwards”.

Read the original (Nov. 25, 2010).

At one point this evening the CPAA posted on its Facebook page, "Yikes! We're so popular that our bandwidth on the website has been exceeded."

CPAA people are also making a request:

An unprecedented amount of attention is being given to polyamory in our national media. Outlets such as CBC, CTV, the Globe and Mail, and numerous local papers have been running stories about the proceedings and about the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association's involvement as an intervenor.

Many allow comments and are running surveys. If you support polyamory, please get involved by adding your voice to these discussions. There is a lot of confusion and a lot of nonsense about who we are and what we stand for. Please help us explain our positive and constructive reality to Canadian society!

P. S.: The CPAA needs donations.


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November 24, 2010

More developments in the Canadian court case

Now that the case testing Canada's polygamy law is underway, it's getting lots of news coverage; here's an up-to-the-minute Google News list. Modern, egalitarian polyamory is supposedly a side issue in the case — "collateral damage." But the people who've become the public faces of the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) — Zoe Duff and her two guys — are still getting media attention after seizing the initiative in the days just before the trial opened.

This appeared yesterday on the website of CBC News (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation):

B.C. woman with 2 partners decries polygamy law

A Vancouver Island woman with two male common-law partners says Canada's polygamy laws need to be struck down by the B.C. Supreme Court because they don't permit her to live her chosen lifestyle.

Zoe Duff, a director of the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, lives in Esquimalt, west of Victoria, with her two male partners. Duff says she and the two men are polyamorists, a term that literally means "many loves."

But it wasn't until she looked at the laws that criminalize polygamy that Duff realized their relationship was illegal, she said.

"Holy cow — this affects me," said Duff, who came to Vancouver this week to watch the B.C. Supreme Court hearing at which Canada's polygamy ban is being tested.

...Duff says the situation in Bountiful has little relevance to her and the two men who share her bed, and she would like the court to strike down the laws so that people like her don't have to live in the shadows.

"I'm living common-law with two partners, and this law very much overshadows my life and how I feel, how I relate to other people in the community and causes a great need for secrecy that's just not part of a lifestyle that I want," Duff said.

...Thirty-six witnesses, including some women in [FLDS Mormon] polygamous relationships, are scheduled to testify....

Read the whole article (Nov. 23, 2010) and join in the comments.

On CBC's radio show The Current, experts discuss the law regarding both polygamy and polyamory.

This appeared today in the Wall Street Journal's online Law Blog:

One Woman. Two Men. Many Loves. But Is it Legal in Canada?

By Dionne Searcey

Oh Canada. There you go again breaking societal taboos. First it was these guys and their affinity for beer, now you give us a Vancouver Island woman with two male common-law partners who is challenging the nation’s polygamy laws.

The woman, Zoe Duff, says Canada’s polygamy laws, which date from the 19th Century, need to be struck down because they don’t permit her to live her chosen lifestyle, according to this report on the CBC’s website.

Duff lives with two men and considers the relationship “polyamorist,” which means “many loves,” CBC reports.

She didn’t realize her relationship was illegal.

...The legal team for B.C.’s attorney general said Tuesday that the law is intended to crack down on only one kind of polygamy — polygyny, which involves one husband with multiple wives, as opposed to polyandry, which is one woman with multiple husbands.

The distinction remains a key point in the legal debate at the hearing, CBC says....

Read the whole article (Nov. 24, 2010).

Today the Canadian Press news service reported more about this awkward and perhaps unconstitutional gender distinction:

Ottawa, B.C. clash over whether women can have multiple husbands

By James Keller

VANCOUVER — The British Columbia and federal governments disagreed Tuesday on the exact definition of polygamy, with the province suggesting the law against multiple marriage doesn’t apply to women with more than one husband and Ottawa insisting that it does.

The two levels of government each brushed aside the discrepancy, suggesting it makes little difference in assessing whether the law violates the religious freedoms of the polygamous community in Bountiful, B.C.

But the inconsistency demonstrates the delicate task before the court as it spends the next two months considering whether it’s constitutional to prohibit polygamy....

Craig Jones, the lawyer for the B.C. government, argued the law was only ever meant to target men with multiple wives, the most common form of polygamy known as polygany [sic].

All of the problems associated with polygamy — including child brides and the discrimination of women — are the direct result of allowing men to marry multiple women, said Jones.

Jones said instances of women with multiple husbands, known as polyandry, are incredibly rare. And he said neither polyandry nor same-sex, multi-partner relationships bring about the same harms to the people involved and to society as a whole as polygany.

"It is arguable that Parliament could not criminalize polyandry and same-sex, multi-partner conjugality even if it wished to," said Jones.

"Polyandry does carry some risk of harms that might be associated with it, but evidence for these is speculative and weak. . . . The fact is that the overwhelming majority of polygamy in practice is traditional, usually religious, patriarchal polygany."

He added that when Parliament brought in the laws in 1890, the government of the day was clearly concerned about multiple wives in some cultures — namely Mormons, Muslims and First Nations.

Jones made the point as he rejected a criticism made by some opponents of the law: that the crime of polygamy sweeps in relationships that aren’t harmful.

The federal government’s lawyer agreed the law was primarily intended to target men with multiple wives, as in Bountiful, but she rejected the suggestion the law only covers that scenario.

Read the whole article (Nov. 24, 2010).

CPAA has decided to post all court filings from all sides of the case online. It seems to be the only party committed to doing this.

If you're following the case, there may be day-by-day court reporting from a group on the other side, Stop Polygamy in Canada — which like CPAA is an intervener and will be giving testimony.

Update, Nov. 25: Today looks like a big day! Member Carole Chanteuse writes, "At some point in the day, we expect that our legal counsel, Mr. John Ince, will be presenting Opening Arguments on behalf of the CPAA. Come join us in court!"

Ince describes some key points in The Georgia Straight, the Vancouver area's alternative paper ("Canada's largest urban weekly") out today:

Polyamory threatened by B.C. polygamy case

By Shadi Elien

The attorneys general of Canada and B.C., Rob Nicholson and Michael de Jong, want to “criminalize loving families”, according to Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association director John Ince.

Ince was referring to government statements filed as part of a B.C. Supreme Court case examining whether a ban on polygamy violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“This is staggering to us not only legally, but more so politically,” he told the Straight by phone. “We think it’s completely untenable — the charter was created to protect precisely that sort of intrusion into the domestic sphere.”

The B.C. attorney general’s opening statement declares that Section 293 of the Criminal Code — which bans polygamy and threatens offenders with five years in prison—should also apply to cohabiting polyamorous families. According to a statement filed by B.C. government lawyer Craig Jones, the problem with leaving polyamory out of the Criminal Code is that “the distinction [between polygamy and polyamory] is not capable of definition for identification and enforcement purposes”.

Ince asserts that it’s ridiculous to think the government can’t distinguish between a patriarchal sect in which women have no rights and modern polyamory.

“Simply ask them one question: ‘do women have the right to marry more than one man?’ ” he said. “And if the answer is no, then bang, it couldn’t be any simpler.”

Federal and provincial lawyers have advanced the position that multiple conjugal relationships are harmful to the state, and in particular to women and children.

But Ince pointed out that the same concerns were once expressed about same-sex and interracial marriages. He called the governments’ arguments in this case a “huge step backwards”.

Read the original (Nov. 25, 2010).

P. S.: The CPAA needs donations.



November 22, 2010

Hour-long poly documentary on French TV


On November 18th Aurélien wrote from France:

Tonight the French cable channel Vivolta [women's programming] will broadcast a 1-hour documentary about polyamoury. I've seen it (it has 20 minutes on my partner, her boyfriend, and me), and it is a serious explanation -- with quite moving images of an MMF Canadian couple, French author Françoise Simpère, and us three. Hope you can catch it!

The show is titled "Amours plurielles: Le nouvel art d'aimer? (Plural loves: The new art of loving?)." It was co-produced by Televista and Pallas Télévision. I missed it — if Vivolta gets to North America on cable or the web, I can't find it. In France it's scheduled for eight rebroadcasts through December 14th. And here's how to find it in the French-speaking parts of Europe.

Update: Joreth has found it on YouTube; you can now watch the show here.

From the its web page (translated):

Plural loves: The new art of loving?

Today we consider living with several relationships comfortably at once.

Among new trends in partnering, we see couples who live apart, couples with large differences in ages or cultures, blended families, gay couples.... Yet the sad fact is, the divorce rate in France has doubled in the past 30 years to 45%... Adultery remains the prime cause of at-fault divorces... A revolution of mores and hearts (des moeurs et des coeurs) may be getting ready to take shape!

Leaving behind convention, hypocrisy and infidelity, more and more lovers are bypassing traditional ways and reconciling freedom with commitment. Plural lovers (Les amoureux pluriels) get together with one or more other people with the consent of their partners. These new-style couples are part of a movement called polyamory (polyamour).

Polyamory advocates for a new form of partnership more ethical than serial monogamy; polyamorous people, or "polys," say they are more honest and sincere than monos: they don't dump one lover when a new person crosses their path!

This philosophy was previously shared among artists and intellectuals: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre kept separate apartments and each had their own friends and lovers. But today one can find a larger population of the polyamorous, especially in the United States. Since the early 90s the movement has been proclaiming that we should accept that others do not belong to us, should admit that we can love several people at once, refuse to choose between two loves....

Let's have a look at these people who would be more honest, more in tune with modern life. Three women have dared to transgress the imposed model: they've reinvented their relationships in creating their own life stories. Méta lived alternately with her two lovers. Françoise, married through 35 years and two children, has always freely lived her multiple loves. Marie has lived for over 15 years with her husband and another man in her life.

Will the couple of the future be polyamorous?

Read the original (Nov. 18, 2010).

The same triad was featured on French TV a month earlier (Oct. 10, 2010) on the talk show Thé ou Café, wherein Catherine Ceylac interviewed Luc Ferry (philosopher and former French education minister) about his book La révolution de l'amour (The Revolution in Love). Watch that show here or, unofficially, here. Two days later the triad in question sent an open letter to the magazine Rue89 (which had covered poly before), titled "Luc Ferry, you're late for a 'revolution of love'" and challenging his assertion that the three of them won't last together. Read it here (or as forced by Google Translate into machine English here.)


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November 21, 2010

Poly triad household goes very, very public

Canada's "reference trial" to test the country's anti-polygamy law begins tomorrow (November 22) in Vancouver — see lots of news — and it's expected to run through late January.

The case centers on Fundamentalist Mormon polygamists in Bountiful, British Columbia. But aside from them, the most news-making of the many parties to the case is the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association. The CPAA formed a year ago when polys realized that many of them and their supporters will be collateral damage — liable on paper to five years in prison — if the 120-year-old anti-polygamy law becomes enforcable as currently written.

One of CPAA's three directors is Zoe Duff, a 51-year-old government worker who lives with her two male partners and children in the town of Esquimalt near Victoria, B.C.  I met her last month in Seattle at Loving More's Poly Living conference, where she and others gave a detailed presentation about the case. She and four other CPAA volunteers also attended the Polyamory Leadership Network meeting that followed.

With events racing along, Zoe and her partners have decided to go bold and be as public as public can be. This morning the three of them are profiled, with pictures, in Sunday newspapers across Canada.

In the Victoria Times-Colonist:

Esquimalt woman practices polyamory with live-in male partners

By Sandra McCulloch, Times Colonist

The calendar at Zoe Duff's Esquimalt house is full of important dates. There are the work schedules for herself, a government employee, and her partners -- Jayson Hawksworth, a grocery worker, and Danny Weeds, a security guard.

Duff's two teenage sons also have work schedules and party dates on there. Date nights are important, so they're logged on the calendar as well.

Duff, 51, has regular nights out with the 54-year-old Hawksworth. She also has nights out with Weed, 44. Then all three go out together on dates, and they all date other people as well.

When the day is done, the three go to bed. It's a big one, measuring 2.4 metres by 2.4 metres, with Duff in the middle.

"They're both heat-seeking missiles and I'm the heat," jokes Duff.

It's an arrangement that works fine for all three. Their respective children and extended families -- both men are separated -- have no problems with their polyamorous triad.

Huff defines polyamory as "many loves," an ethical, non-monogamy, loving more than one person at a time in an emotionally and/or physically demonstrative fashion. A principle of the "poly" lifestyle is openness and honesty among those involved.

...Duff worries that she and others in the "poly" community will be caught in the [polygamy] crossfire and is worried about the criminalization of her way of life.

Polyamory is different from polygamy because all partners are consenting, said Duff. The hallmarks of the lifestyle are respect, integrity and communication.

Duff, twice divorced, said Hawksworth and Weeds "are both very gentle men and big-hearted. They allow me to be who I want to be."

Hawksworth says: "We push her to do what she wants to do. She wants to be more open in her lifestyle but she also wants to be able to write down things. She's a budding author, and she's a wonderful lady."

Hawksworth said the triad arrangement "makes me more open, makes me want to try new things."

...The two men get along so well that Duff jokes they are on a man-date and they just use her for cover. But the men are both heterosexual, so Duff is their only sexual partner within the household.

...Everybody agrees that polyamory takes a lot of talking.

"A lot of things you can get away with in a monogamous relationship, you can't get away with when there's more people involved," said Huff.

"You have to communicate on a level that's kind of scary sometimes. You have to put everything out on the table and be honest with yourself, which is really hard."

They say the payoff for all the hard work is when you can watch a partner having a great time with another person and not have a twinge of worry because you're secure.

..."It's kind of cool to be out with these guys and they're looking at girls on the street and they say, 'That's a nice one, what do you think?'," said Huff.

"This level of honesty and communication is so easy once you've achieved it."

Read the whole article (Nov. 21, 2010).

Versions of the article also appear in today's Vancouver Sun (under the title Threesome's company too: 'Polyamorous' adults defend way of life), The Province in Vancouver ('Many loves' works best for some people), the Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, and probably elsewhere.

The Vancouver Sun has provided the most extensive background on the polygamy case, including an earlier profile of Zoe and family: Polyamorous triad: "We are a stable and happy blended family". Much of the Sun's coverage has been by columnist Daphne Bramham, not exactly a disinterested party; she wrote the book The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada's Polygamous Mormon Sect exposing widespread abuses associated with patriarchal polygamy in Bountiful, and sometimes she seems to resent the polys for coming out of left field and complicating her crusade.

The National Post had an article on the case yesterday: Court to decide if polygamy laws conflict with rights charter, with a rather dismissive note on the polyamory interveners:

A total of 11 interveners will represent both sides of the debate. They make an eclectic lot. Among the groups challenging the law is it stands is the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, which supports the practice of having multiple relationships. It has filed supporting affidavits in which middle-aged members extol the virtues of sharing their bedrooms with more than one other. One polyamorist insists that her teenaged children don’t mind her two-male arrangement at all.

Stay tuned. The attorneys-general will present their opening arguments in the first few days, along with counterarguments from an amicus curiae appointed by the court. (The case has no defendants.) It's not known yet when the polys and their lawyer will testify.



November 19, 2010

"Three is the new two, as couples explore the boundaries of non-monogamy"

The Australian

The Canada court case may have prompted this glowing profile of a polyfi triad on the website of one of Australia's largest newspapers:

Three is the new two, as couples explore the boundaries of non-monogamy

Polyamory is more widespread than you'd expect and often it has nothing to do with cults or religion

By Emma Jane

THE Hill-Thompsons* are like any other young family expecting their first baby.

They're buying maternity clobber on eBay, weeping during ultrasounds and giggling when the malapropistic midwife leading their prenatal classes advises them to gouge their birth companions carefully.

There is, however, one thing about the Hill-Thompsons that makes them a little unusual: there are three of them.

Mari (a 33-year-old student doing her second degree), Sara (a 32-year-old uni lecturer) and David (a 35-year-old IT geek) have been a sexually monogamous, three-way unit for six years.

They are not religious, they're not cult members and they're not even that into group sex.

They just happened to all fall in love with each other at roughly the same time.

For the most part, the Brisbane trio have kept the details of their polyamorous private life to themselves. But they are slowly coming out of the closet now Mari is eight months up the duff. Sara is also hoping to conceive in the not-too-distant future.

Telling people about their super-sized relationship is complicated by a lack of unloaded language options. Threesome sounds too sexy and there is no triplicate version of the word couple.

"Usually we just tell people there are three of us," Mari says. "But polyfidelitous might be the best technical term."

Polyamory, also known as ethical non-monogamy, is billed by many activists as the new gay; the next sexual revolution....

Books, blogs and academic research into the practice are all rising, as is the predictable outrage from traditionalists and even from some non-traditionalists who say the trend muddies the gay marriage debate.

While a common joke is that the complexities of poly relationships leave little time for activism, in Canada on Monday the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association will begin fighting for group marriage rights in that nation's supreme court....

The story of how the Hill-Thompsons came to be the Hill-Thompsons is long, complicated and, at times, tragic....

Six years later, negotiating life together still involves tricky logistics and sleep rosters. In the early days, they slept in a queen and a single bed pushed together with a lumpy piece of foam filling the gap and a couple of stitched-together sheets on top. Now they take it turns to sleep in twos, only slumbering altogether (sideways in a king-sized bed) a few times a week (pregnant bellies permitting).

"Our schedule has changed over the years and I am sure it will continue to change," Mari says. "We also alter the sleeping rotation if anyone is likely to feel particularly lonely sleeping by themselves for whatever reason."

As for sex, the gang tend to avoid the three musketeers approach in this domain, too.

"It takes a lot of brainpower to think about three people's sexual pleasure and emotional states at once," Sara says. "Having to think that hard makes sex difficult."

Another intriguing aspect of the arrangement is Mari and Sara's status as committed feminists....

And as they count down the days until the birth of little Kate next month, they are convinced that any stigma their daughter faces in the community will be well and truly countered by the 50 per cent increase in the usual loving parenthood quotient she will have at home.

Read the whole article (Nov. 20, 2010).

The Australian is a Rupert Murdoch paper with a conservative orientation. But Murdoch papers never let that get in the way of a sexually titillating story. They've been treating poly well, though I would still advise caution.

Also: Here's a radio interview with some polyfolks that aired on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's network: "Me, my boyfriend, his girlfriend and his mum" (Oct. 30, 2010).



November 18, 2010

Canadian polys court publicity as trial nears

Canadian University Press and others

With the test case over Canada's 1890 anti-polygamy and anti-polyamory law set to begin in four days (on November 22nd), poly activists with the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) are seeking — and getting — more good press.

Last night some of them spoke out at a well-publicized forum at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, the province where the trial will take place. (Watch the panel on YouTube.) And yesterday CPAA-er Kiki Christie got written up in the Canadian University Press, a news service for more than 80 college papers.

Note the article's beautiful picture of Kiki and her girlfriend and boyfriend. Lesson: if you want the media to show nice pictures of you that convey your message, give them the pictures yourself! Make their job easy.

From the article:

B.C. to review polygamy law

A potential change to the law would affect polyamorists, too.

By Danielle Pope — CUP Western Bureau Chief

Caption: Kiki Christie (top) enjoys a Victoria Pride event with her girlfriend Cora and their boyfriend Pierce. (Provided photo)

VICTORIA (CUP) — The provincial government could soon have a lot to say in the future when it comes to who British Columbians can sleep with.

Starting Nov. 22, the B.C. Supreme Court will review section 293 of the Criminal Code, Canada’s so-called “polygamy law,” to decide whether or not it is constitutional. But the case doesn’t just affect polygamists — it has pulled in polyamorous people across the country, who are planning to take part in the case.

“Most Canadians are decent, fair-minded people who don’t want to lock up their neighbours over harmless personal choices. Society seems to be ahead of the law on this issue,” said Kiki Christie, a bisexual polyamorous writer and educator living in Victoria.

“The polyamorous community builds its relationships on values shared among Canadians, including gender equality, fairness, respect for the autonomy and free choice of all involved and affirmative concern of each for the feelings and well-being of the others.”

Christie, who is the facilitator and founder of Victoria Poly 101, a discussion and support group, says that Canadian society has succeeded in integrating many diverse cultures and worldviews, and “is up to the challenge of giving polyamory its due respect.”

When it comes to decoding the terminology, polygamy refers to multiple marriages, while polyamory implies multiple loving relationships — usually, but not always, romantic in nature. Currently, section 293 prescribes criminal penalties for all multi-person conjugal relationships, and not just those who are formally married to multiple people....

“We’re here because we have a right to live with the people we love, and Canadian law doesn’t seem to recognize that,” said Christie. “Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada purports to outlaw polyamorous people living together as families. It penalizes us as soon as we make a serious commitment to one another.”

Christie says that while stigma is something that every sexual orientation has to deal with, most of the challenges in polyamory are due to misunderstanding or lack of information.

“We are victims of ‘couple-ism,’ in our society,” she said. “If you have two partners, which one do you bring to the staff party, or take to the Valentine’s Day offer for couples at the restaurant? The restaurant is discriminating, but it doesn't know that. Having multiple, consenting loves is relatively unknown to our culture. Or worse, treated as trivial, which love, of course, never is.”

Christie says that while many polyamorists worry about “coming out” to their families, friends and colleagues, they often find far more acceptance than they expect. Sometimes, those who come out do encounter discrimination or ostracism, she says, but facing this is also part of changing the social stigmas that lock us in — and it's rarer than one might expect.

...“Polyamory is not cheating; it's not acting without responsibility or the consent of one's partners, and it's not about being greedy or selfish. Polyamory is, first and foremost, a choice about who and how we love.”

Read the whole article.

Word is that Kiki will also be on CHEK-TV for Vancouver Island. More is on the way elsewhere.



November 11, 2010

As Canadian poly case nears, publicity ramps up

On Monday morning November 22nd, arguments will begin in a Vancouver courtroom to test the legality of Canada's 120-year old anti-polygamy and anti-polyamory law.

The law, written against Mormons in 1890, has apparently not been enforced in a lifetime and seems to conflict with Canada's newer Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Now authorities are forcing the issue, following allegations that Mormon polygamist leaders are abusing women and minors in a fundamentalist sect in Bountiful, British Columbia.

There are no defendants in the case. This is a "reference case" being brought by the two Attorneys General of British Columbia and of Canada. They are seeking to establish that the law itself is valid under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, presumably so that they can prosecute the leaders in Bountiful for having more than one wife. (Attempts to get at the alleged abuses directly have failed, since no one involved will testify.)

Polyamorists have a dog in this fight because the Canadian law is written so broadly that it includes them too, even if they make no claim to have more than one marriage — and even, the law states, if they never have sex. The offense consists merely of more than two people pledging a bond or loyalty among themselves, even informally, that could be considered "any kind of conjugal union." A pagan handfasting would certainly qualify. So might simply living together as a family, common-law marriage style. The penalty for this is up to five years in prison. Anyone who assists in forming such a union is also liable for five years in prison.1

The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) formed early this year to represent the interests of polyamorists at the trial. It obtained "intervener" status (along with about a dozen various other groups), which will allow it to present its case. Volunteer lawyer John Ince is the CPAA's representative. The group has done a very professional job so far in getting prepared and explaining polyamory to the Canadian media and public. See my previous coverage (includes this article; scroll down).

I met five of the CPAA people in Seattle a couple weeks ago, at Loving More's Poly Living conference and the summit meeting of the Polyamory Leadership Network. They are just as smart and impressive in person as online.

The trial is expected to last about 40 days. Whatever the court's decision, the fight will then move to the political realm. Canadians are in for a long debate.

To help get the debate rolling, members of CPAA and the Victoria Poly 101 group will hold a two-hour panel discussion titled "What Is Polyamory?" next Wednesday, November 17th, at the University of Victoria in Victoria, BC. See press release.

Two days ago they got themselves some excellent publicity for the event in Monday Magazine, Victoria's alternative weekly:

Polyamory panel doesn’t want relationships on trial

By Danielle Pope

The B.C. Supreme Court is trying to snuggle into the beds of Canadians, but it’s getting kind of crowded — especially as the government attempts to make a call on the legality of polyamory. Kiki Christie is the facilitator and founder of Victoria Poly 101 and organizer of the this week’s “What is Polyamory?” discussion panel, which will see an international group of polyamorous experts — including Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association director Zoe Duff, San Francisco sexologist Liam “captain” Snowdon and Cora Bilsker, a Victoria woman specializing in alternative relationships — answer questions from the media and public about the practice of polyamory (loving or being in a romantic relationship with more than one person) and how it differs from polygamy (having more than one spouse at the same time).

Confused? All the better reason to attend. Christie promises it will be an electrifying group affair.

Monday Magazine: Can you tell us a little bit about your background in polyamory?

Kiki Christie: I’m a bisexual polyamorous writer and educator living in Victoria who has identified as poly for eight years. I believe that everyone should have the right to design the relationship that works best for them — regardless of the current cultural paradigm — and I’ve spent a lot of time working to acquire the self-knowledge and communication skills to be able to do this effectively and happily. I have partners in Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle, and I live with my two teenage daughters.

...MM: Why is this an important topic for our community to discuss?

KC: We got the idea for a panel discussion because no one person could represent polyamory. More specifically, polyamory is not a practice with prescribed beliefs and customs, so it is important to demonstrate differing viewpoints, lifestyles and opinions. We hope people will leave the event with a much clearer understanding of polyamory and with no misconceptions.... It’s not just about sex. It’s about love. We’re also not looking to “convert” anyone to polyamory, nor do any of us think that this is for everyone. We hope to create a dialogue of acceptance. We hope that monogamous people in the audience might think — perhaps for the first time — about why they have chosen to be monogamous. We believe that ethical, consensual non-monogamy is a choice and a right we should all have.

MM: How do you think polyamory is viewed in Canada right now?

KC: Most of the reactions I’ve gotten from friends and community members when they first hear that I’m polyamorous is that it sounds complicated. I’ve had quite a few curious questions about things like time management, safe sex and whether my kids like having a poly mom (they think it’s pretty great since they enjoy having an extended family of caring adults to talk to and spend time with). The biggest question I get from people is how to deal with jealousy and this is something I always enjoy talking about, because dealing with tough emotions can teach us so much about ourselves. We’ll definitely be talking about this at the panel discussion....

Read the whole article (Oct. 10, 2010).


This just in: CPAA member Carole Chanteuse posts to the PolyLegal Yahoo Group,

We have just got the Attorneys Generals' opening arguments.

[Canada's Attorney General] says: polyamory is legal and not included in the definition of what is intended to be banned unless polys actually have an event/ceremony in which you utter marriage-like words.

[BC's Attorney General] says: polyamory is illegal under the law but if that's unconstitutional, then the law can be read to be used against only polygynous (MFF) configurations, since the social-science evidence shows harms in those configurations [among polygamists]. (Thus, lesbians shouldn't worry as much but our bisexual sisters are hooped.)

P.S.: The CPAA needs your donations.

Also: Kamela Dolinova has written a good introduction to the case at her Boston Open Relationships Examiner: "Polygamists and polyamorists unlikely bedfellows against antiquated Canadian law"; Part 1, Part 2.


1 Here's the complete text of the law in question (Section 293 of Canada's Criminal Code):

(1) Every one who
        (a) practices or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practice or enter into
               (i) any form of polygamy, or
               (ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or
        (b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii),
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

Evidence in case of polygamy

(2) Where an accused is charged with an offence under this section, no averment or proof of the method by which the alleged relationship was entered into, agreed to or consented to is necessary in the indictment or on the trial of the accused, nor is it necessary on the trial to prove that the persons who are alleged to have entered into the relationship had or intended to have sexual intercourse.


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November 4, 2010

Savage advice: coming out to parents

Savage Love (many alternative newspapers)

Advice columnist Dan Savage offers recommendations to a triad who are wondering how to come out to three very different sets of parents:

Need to Know

November 4, 2010

I have a bit of a situation. I'm a 23-year-old het male, and I am married. My wife and I have a girlfriend now, making our arrangement a polyamorous triad. We all love each other, and we are getting to the point that we are thinking about how we are going to tell our parents about our relationship.

My parents have already been told. My mother was bemused and amazed, my father gave me a high five.... [But] my wife's family is super Southern Baptist, while our girlfriend's mother is a big ol' bag of crazy: She was a physically abusive nut job who beat her children with a Bible attached to a rope.

Should we even bother disclosing to either of their sets of Bible-beating parents?... If we shouldn't disclose, then how do we deal with things like family holidays? Is not disclosing a sign that either my wife or girlfriend is ashamed of the life we lead?

Not Telling The Whole Truth

You don't mention how long you've been in this poly triad, NTTWT, but seeing as you're only 23 and were already married before you met the girlfriend, you can't have been in this poly triad for very long....

I'm gonna advise against disclosing the true nature of your relationship(s) for the time being, NTTWT. Not because you have anything to be ashamed of — you most certainly do not — but because relationships with parents are best run on a need-to-know basis.

And it doesn't sound like your wife's parents need to know — not yet. This triad is new, and like most romantic relationships, it may not stand the test of time. For the moment, introduce your girlfriend as a friend; if your MIL is curious about why you're all living together, say something vague about the economy. If it turns out that your triad is one for the ages, NTTWT, then you can come out to your MIL and weather the judgmental shitstorm.

As for the girlfriend's mother, NTTWT, it doesn't sound like that woman has a right to know anything about her daughter's life.

All that said, NTTWT, I do think loving, committed nonmonogamous couples should be open with their families, if only to prove to people that loving, committed nonmonogamous couples exist. I'm not encouraging you to be closeted, just strategic. Your wife's family is more likely to be accepting if they perceive your marriage as not just loving, but lasting. Give it a few years, NTTWT, and then, whether the current girlfriend is still in the picture or not, your wife can let her mother know — as matter-of-factly as possible — that you're poly.

Read the whole article (Nov. 4, 2010). The link goes to its appearance in Seattle's The Stranger, the weekly paper that Savage edits. Note the cute graphic of three little piggies building a house, or maybe it's a blast wall against exploding parents.

Also on the subject of coming out: Bitsy is building Openly Poly, a website of resources and stories. Contribute yours.


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