Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

May 3, 2015

Six days before election, Green Party leader's poly comment blows up across U.K.

We've seen this happen to a nation's Green Party twice before. A Green leader or activist mentions that legal recognition for multi-relationships might be something worth considering — and conservative media blow it up, hijacking national attention away from the Greens' actual issues at a crucial time. It happened in Canada in 2010 and in Australia in 2012.

U.K. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett
Now it's happening in Great Britain. Last March, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett did a question-and-answer with readers of PinkNews, "Europe's largest gay news service." A reader asked about recognition for poly families. Last Friday, PinkNews published an article about the event. From the article:

The PinkNews reader, Dr Redfern Jon Barrett, asked: “At present those in a ‘trio’ (a three-way relationship) are denied marriage equality, and as a result face a considerable amount of legal discrimination.

“As someone living with his two boyfriends in a stable long-term relationship, I would like to know what your stance is on polyamory rights. Is there room for Green support on group civil partnerships or marriages?”

To which Ms Bennett responded: “At present, we do not have a policy on civil partnerships involving more than two people.

“We are, uniquely in this country, a party whose policies are developed and voted for by our members.

“We have led the way on many issues related to the liberalisation of legal status in adult consenting relationships, and we are open to further conversation and consultation.”

No policy, no promises, but no slammed door either. (See the whole article; May 1, 2015).

The conservative press spotted this when it was published on Friday and leaped. First up, The Telegraph:

Greens 'open' to three-person marriage, says Natalie Bennett

Green Party leader says she is keen to consider recognition for polyamorous relationships

The Green Party is “open” to the idea of three-person marriages, Natalie Bennett has said. Ms Bennett said she was “open to further conversation and consultation” about the prospect of the state recognising polyamorous relationships....

Whole article (May 1).

The Daily Mail:

Green leader Natalie Bennett is 'open' to the idea of three-way weddings and civil partnerships

Bennett says she is 'open' to more rights for polyamorous relationships. It would allow more than two people to enter into marriages together

Green party leader Natalie Bennett has revealed she is open to the idea of legalising three-way marriages.

Party members could get the chance to formulate policy to permit so-called polyamorous relationships, which would allow more than two people to enter into marriages or have civil partnerships.

Ms Bennett said the Greens had already led the way in calling for the liberalisation of marriage laws and is 'open' to going further....

...Rev David Robertson, from the Free Church of Scotland, contended the idea. He said: 'Natalie Bennett is of course just being consistent. 'Given her presuppositions and philosophy, why shouldn’t "marriage equality" extend to multiple people who "love each other"?

'We warned that the redefinition of marriage would not end with same-sex marriage and were ridiculed and abused as being ridiculous. It gives us no pleasure to know that we were right.'

Holly Tootill, a family lawyer with JMW Solicitors, said: ‘Divorce can be complex enough when there are two spouses. Adding another individual into such a structure would make it even more difficult to achieve resolution on matters relating to the well-being of children and finances.'...

Whole article (May 1).

The Mirror had some fun:

Green Party backs polyamory: Here's how you could benefit from a three-way marriage

Natalie Bennett has told PinkNews her party is open to polyamorous marriages and civil partnerships – how would that work in practice?

It took decades but eventually gay marriage was legalised here in the UK.

So what's next? How about three-way unions?

The leader of the Green Party was asked if the party would do anything to further the rights of people in three-way relationships, specifically allowing them to marry. And Natalie Bennett said the Greens would be up for legalising three-way marriages.

3 ways polyamorous marriage could solve Britain's social problems

In fact allowing three way marriages would solve several of Britain’s big social problems

1) Housing has become increasingly expensive. Mortgages would be a lot cheaper if you could share them three ways.

2) Your children’s university fees. The price of higher ed has rocketed up. Getting three earners to contribute could help fund many extra kids through uni.

3) In-work poverty – add one extra income and you’ll lift thousands out of poverty.

But it might be a bureaucratic and legal challenge, if the Greens ever manage to get it passed.

Challenge #1: It's expensive because marriage couples enjoy state benefits....

Challenge #2: Tax breaks....

Challenge #3: people will oppose it

Because people love to get involved in and legislate others' private lives.

Whole article (May 1). At the end, readers can vote on "Do you think polyamorous marriage should be legal?" After two days the yeses are running neck and neck with the noes (vastly better than in real polls).

Bennett campaigning in Soho.

The Independent, an actual serious newspaper, took the trouble to quote a followup from Bennett trying to walk this back a bit:

Speaking at the launch of the party’s LGBTIQ manifesto in Soho later, she told journalists that she had “no personal view at all” on the issue but was prepared to listen to people’s views.

"I don't think saying we will listen to the evidence is in any way outlandish.

"We have, for example, very bad laws that have created the war on drugs that comes from the result that we haven't had evidence-based policy-making.

"Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, put forward a call for the review of the 1971 drugs laws that have never been reviewed."...

Whole article (May 1).

The Scotsman quoted more of her followup:

Natalie Bennett open to three-way marriage plans

...Ms Bennett said: “What I said was, we’d listen to the evidence on any issue, we believe in evidence-based policy-making. I have no personal view on this at all. This is the first time the question has been put to me so what I’m prepared to do is always listen to evidence.”

Asked if more moderate left-wing voters might be put off Green policies they see as outlandish, Ms Bennett replied: “I don’t think saying we will listen to the evidence is in any way outlandish. We have, for example, very bad laws that have created the war on drugs that comes from the result that we haven’t had evidence-based policy-making.

“Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, put forward a call for the review of the 1971 drugs laws that have never been reviewed. Calling for evidence-based policy-making is a position that we should see in a great many more areas.[Emphasis mine; an example of skillful deflection, reorienting the discussion to intended topics.]

Whole article (May 2).

In the Metro: Green Party leader ‘open’ to three-way marriages (May 3). This too has a reader poll, in which those in favor of "three-way marriages and civil partnerships" had 42% of the votes three days later

And on the BBC: Election 2015: Greens 'would discuss group marriage' (May 1, 2015).

The story also made Buzzfeed and a bunch of other outlets.

PinkNews quotes Bennett's full explanation of her comments, as given to ITV News: Green leader Natalie Bennett defends being ‘open’ to three-way marriages (May 1). Followup: PinkNews prints a response to the fuss by Redfern Jon Barrett, the polyactivist question-asker who started it all (May 4.)

Unlike the Canadian and Australian Green parties in their time, Bennett seems to be handling this kerfuffle pretty well. We'll see if it fades before the election.

Lesson here: Group marriage is not ready for rational discussion in mainstream politics. Any candidate or party that mentions it, even in passing, should know that it will be a subject changer that hijacks their storyline for at least a few days.

Here's the Green Party's actual manifesto that it is running on in Thursday's election.

Election result, May 8: The Greens retained their one member in the U.K.'s 650-member Parliament. Interestingly, for this paltry result they collected 1,157,613 votes nationwide — not much short of the Scottish National Party's 1,454,436 votes, which made world news by netting it 56 seats in Parliament (because of its concentration in fewer districts).

The Green Party, by skimming off 1.1 million of the most progressive votes nationwide for this tiny result, could easily have been the spoiler that thwarted Labour and delivered power to the Conservatives — just as Ralph Nader's presence on the ballot in 2000 drew off far more than enough progressives for George W. Bush to squeak into the presidency. But in the end, the Conservatives' vote margin was (unexpectedly) large enough that the "Green siphon" didn't matter.


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Blogger Trey Capnerhurst said...

To be fair, it wasn't during an election that it made national attention in the Canadian Greens. It was a motion made by non-polys during the BGM. I was the point person on that one, in that I was the only member of the poly community to speak to the motion, and the media spoke largely to me about it. And the motion was struck down anyway, because the wording was terrible. However, there is a huge poly community in the Greens, even a Yahoo group called PolyGreens! Many powerful, but hidden polys, spoke to me afterwards. One was highly instrumental in forming the only Canada wide poly activist group. So this isn't an issue that will go away from politics, and the Greens, as usual, will probably be the first to address it.

So get your memberships, kids! We are moving this forward, and it will probably be a Green bus...

May 03, 2015 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Ivo said...

Thanks for drawing attention to this, Alan. I agree with Trey that the Greens are the most likely to pave the way to legislative acceptance of polyamory, given their progressive and evidence based policy orientation.

They're also fundamentally opposed to throwing an issue under the bus for purely political advantage, which is a brave and high road that I wish was common practice.

However, let's not assume that the public isn't ready for a rational and forward moving discussion on polyamory. I think that we're almost there, and the poll you linked to seems to back that up.

Without fail, traditional and reactive voices are going to resurrect the Slippery Gay Slope argument, and other convenient demonizing rhetoric, especially during the frenzy of opportunism in advance of an election. It makes for sensational news and easily targets opponents. (Sigh -- negative campaigning is such an insult to the process, but it's effective.)

I wouldn't let that opportunism in the media deter. There are plenty of closet poly people in politics. The public is beginning to better understand polyamory. There will be opportunities to have more sophisticated political conversations about polyamory when there isn't an election at stake and when the issue can be properly framed as a civil rights, identity and personal freedom issue.

May 03, 2015 4:20 PM  

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