Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

September 2, 2012

A Brazil triad's poly paperwork explodes worldwide

A few days ago came news from Brazil about a poly triad who obtained a certificate noting civil union, from a sympathetic city clerk in the city of Tupã, state of São Paulo. It may have been the first such certificate issued outside the Netherlands. It's unclear what legal status it will give the three, if any; courts will have to rule.

Right: Tupã City Hall.

It's certainly not true that "Brazil just legalized group marriage" as some are hyperventilating. The otherwise standard "certificate of stable union" that the triad obtained from city hall is for people who are not married, and it seems to be more a statement of sworn-to facts than a granting of privileges. The triad declare they have lived together for three years and that they pool finances.

They received the paper several months ago with no fuss at the time. This week the news suddenly exploded not just across Brazil but (courtesy of the BBC) all over planet Earth.

A Chinese news animation from Taiwan about evolving poly marriage, prompted by the Brazil story. Watch here.

It's remarkable that this quiet event in an out-of-the-way town in the South American interior should prompt such global attention. The three themselves aren't looking for publicity. They're not talking to the press, and they've asked through a friend that we not spread their names and picture.

Clearly, the world has become primed to pay attention to the concept of polyamorous families. As I've said before, what we are doing really turns heads. I can't imagine such intense interest happening 20 years ago.

Here in the USA, from Time magazine:

‘Big Love’ in Brazil: Three-Person Civil Union Approved in Sao Paulo

A recently 'married' Brazilian trio have clearly never heard the saying two's company, three's a crowd.

By Judith Welikala

As the issue of gay marriage continues to prompt heated debate in the United States, a different type of controversial union is driving the conversation in Brazil. A Sao Paulo man has entered into a civil union — with two women.

...Nathaniel Santos Batista Junior, a jurist involved in the drafting of the official document, told Globo TV the purpose of the union was fundamentally practical: to ensure the rights of the partners should one of them pass away or separate. The Daily Telegraph reports that the three partners have been living together for the past three years in Rio de Janeiro, where they share a bank account, bills and expenses.

The union was approved by Public Notary Claudia do Nascimento Domingues, on the basis that there was no law prohibiting it from taking place. Civil unions were introduced in Brazil in 2004.... ”We are only recognizing what has always existed. We are not inventing anything,” Domingues said....

That stance has been met with fierce criticism, both from legal experts and religious communities. Regina Beatriz Tavares da Silva, president of the Commission for the Rights of the Family within the Institute of Lawyers, told the BBC the union was “absurd and totally illegal” and “something completely unacceptable which goes against Brazilian values and morals.”...

Read the whole article (Aug. 30, 2012).

The Week magazine gives a solid factual summary (Aug. 30, 2012). Excerpt:

Brazil's groundbreaking three-person civil union

...An official in the state of Sao Paulo has caused an uproar by giving her stamp of approval to a civil union between a man and a woman ... and another woman. Public Notary [which seems to be the equivalent of "city clerk" here] Claudia do Nascimento Domingues says the trio live like a family and should be treated as one, while religious groups and at least one legal expert say recognizing the three-way union is immoral and absurd. Will this unique union be allowed to stand? Here, a brief guide:

Who are these people?

...Domingues says the trio have been sharing bills and living together for three years in Rio de Janeiro, in a relationship filled with "loyalty and companionship." Domingues says she's not "inventing" a new kind of family, merely "recognizing what has always existed." A lawyer who helped draft the civil union document says the women and their man merely wanted to make it official, to protect all of their rights if they split up, and to make it easier to divide pensions, health benefits, and personal property if one or another (or another) dies.

Is this legal?

Domingues insists there is no law prohibiting it. Polygamy is illegal in Brazil, but because these three people won't enjoy all the rights of a married couple, it may not technically count as polygamy. Their civil union document, for example, doesn't bestow any new parental rights to the third person if two members of the group conceive a child. And registering a civil union merely requires establishing that the applicants share an address and a bank account, which these three have done....


Unprecedented civil union unites Brazilian trio

Brazilian public notary Claudia do Nascimento Domingues set off a firestorm by granting Brazil's first civil union to a trio, an act so unprecedented that there isn't a word for it in Portuguese.

União poliafetiva is the label she created. "Polyfidelitous union" is her best guess in English.

The relationship involves three professionals in their 30s.... What Domingues did was legally register the trio as a "stable union," a civil union that extends all of the benefits of marriage, though there is debate about what rights the threesome will actually enjoy. It short, it recognizes the trio as a family entity for public legal purposes....

...The controversial civil union "is proof that there is a plurality of familiar relations, though not all deserve judicial or legal standing," Rolf Madaleno, director of the Brazilian Institute for Family Law, said in a statement. "The action carried out does not provide protections and does not confer rights."

In his opinion, the legal action in question does nothing more than reaffirm that the trio in question believes that they are a trio.

...Brazil is known for its progressive social policies and openness, as reflected in the status conferred to the trio, though... while Brazil appears to be a permissive place, it is also a country where more than 86% of the population identifies as Catholic or evangelical.
There was a similar outcry when "stable unions" between same-sex couples were allowed for the first time. The country's supreme court ruled that a gay couple in a civil union had the same rights as a married heterosexual couple, but there is debate about whether such rights can be extended to a trio.

"By registering them, I only confirmed that they recognize themselves as a family," [Domingues] said. "I don't confer rights to them. That is up to a judge to decide."...

It was no coincidence that the request landed on her desk.

The trio from Rio, having been rejected by other public notaries, found their way rural Sao Paulo state and to Domingues because she is a student of polyfidelitous relationships — ones involving more than two partners, but where there is fidelity between the members. Formerly an IT manager, Domingues now is a doctoral student at the University of Sao Paulo, studying family law.

Her dissertation, she said, is about "how you can love more than one person at the same time." Her research looks at cultures, places, sociology, anthropology, religion and the history of family and intimate relationships in Brazil.

Through mutual friends, the trio found Domingues and traveled more than 600 miles from Rio, into the interior of Sao Paulo state, to Tupa.

Domingues doesn't hesitate to call herself married, though she and her husband are bound by a "stable union" and not a civil marriage. Her husband works with her as a deputy public notary....

Other polyfidelitous groups have reached out to her seeking the same civil union status. Domingues is studying the cases of a quintet (two men and three women) and another trio (one woman and two men).

The whole article (Aug. 31, 2012).

From the Christian Post (Aug. 31, 2012):

One widely respected psychologist and evangelical Christian, Marisa Lobo, who is known for encouraging reparative therapy laws for homosexuals in Brazil, has been one of the most outspoken in expressing her outrage at the news: "Jesus, come back soon!"

Also USA Today, UPI, Public Radio International, and heaps more.

And that's just in English. Here are nearly 2,000 results in Portuguese.

At Gawker Media's daily science-fiction newsmagazine io9, whose slogan is "We come from the future," editor-in-chief Annalee Newitz thinks it's about time: "That sounds shockingly reasonable. I can't wait to live in a future world where the law acknowledges my wife and two husbands."


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