Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

July 30, 2015

"Is Poly Next? Future marriage equality frontier may be harder"

Corvallis Advocate

For media running features on local poly people, the news hook has become the marriage question. Even though it's not high on most polyfolks' agendas. Think acceptance and nondiscrimination instead.

Corvallis, Oregon (between Portland and Eugene) awakes this morning to find this on display as the cover of the local alternative weekly paper:

Redefining Marriage: Polyamory May Be Next

By Kelsi Villarreal

Polyamory has been gaining publicity over the last few years, from Newsweek’s “Polyamory: The Next Sexual Revolution?” to Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer’s open marriage, to Benedict Smith’s article in VICE about growing up in a polyamorous household. The recent Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage opened floodgates of alarmed and snarky speculation from detractors about whether it sets a precedent for the legalization of polyamorous marriages, and the Internet has largely responded in the affirmative. And there is a growing community of polyamorous people in the Pacific Northwest — including here in Corvallis — many of whom want legal recognition of their relationships and are considering what legal polyamorous marriage might look like.

One local man, Mike, is currently in a relationship with two long-term partners and one new partner. He said, “The subject of marriage often comes up when thinking about legal issues. Emotionally, I consider both of my long-term partners wives but legally I am only allowed to marry one of them. This has caused some emotional distress.”

It’s true legalizing polyamorous marriages would be very complicated....

Currently polyamorous people have a few legal options open to them: distribution of property can be assigned through wills and trusts; more than one person can be given power of attorney for medical decisions. But only one, legally married spouse can participate in the other spouse’s insurance coverage, and insurance companies would almost certainly oppose expanding coverage to an indefinite number of partners.

Additionally, custody arrangements might be complicated if children are involved, and polyamorous parents are disadvantaged in a number of ways....

...Perhaps a first step for polyamory activism would be to fight for anti-discrimination laws. Besides facing alienation from some resources monogamous people have access to (it can be very hard, for instance, to find a relationship counsellor who is willing to counsel a poly couple), poly people face discrimination because polyamory is not a protected class. There is disagreement, even among polyamorous people, about whether polyamory is a lifestyle choice or a more fundamental identification....

Read the whole article (online July 29, 2015; paper issue dated July 30).



July 27, 2015

"Is an open marriage the secret to keeping love alive?" Eighty-year-olds' perspective.

People who say "Open marriage? Then why get married?!" are so utterly clueless. Next time you hear someone talk like that, make a point to send them this article. Bookmark it for this purpose. It's from the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Excerpts:

Is an open marriage the secret to keeping love alive?

Elana and David Wesley have been living together happily for 62 years while keeping the fires of passion — and sexual tension — burning.

Elana and David Wesley. 'She explained to me that when she loves someone, she never stops loving him.' Photo by Moti Milrod

By Shachar Kidron

I ran as hard as I could to catch the bus, and squeezed on at the last second. I found myself sitting opposite an elderly couple whom I couldn’t take my eyes off. They were holding hands. They spoke American-accented English in low tones, the tranquil conversation of a long-together couple. At one point, the man stroked the woman’s arm, then they went back to holding hands. It wasn’t the declaratory holding of hands of a new couple, but hidden, loose, relaxed, and therefore all the more secure. I was enthralled.

After a few minutes, fearing they would get off the bus before me, I mustered the courage to speak to them. I introduced myself briefly and asked if they’d been a couple for a long time. “Sixty-two years — is that a long time?” the woman chortled affably. We became instant friends....


Elana: “I had three serious boyfriends before him.”

Why didn’t things work out with them?

“Each of them is a different story, but along with their wives, they’re still friends of ours, the ones who are still alive. I still love them all.”

David: “She and I and her previous boyfriend went to a movie together. I sat on one side of her and he sat on the other, and the three of us held hands. She really liked that. I was simply in love with her....

...David: “She explained to me that when she loves someone, she never stops loving him, and in the end the penny dropped: If she loves them and doesn’t stop loving them, that means that she loves me, too — the person she lives with and who is the center of her life — and will not stop loving me. In other words, she won’t be able to allow me to not stay in her life.”

Elana: “You have no idea how many friends we have together.”

David: “For example, in 2009 we met a woman who’s 20 years younger than I am.... I was captivated by her and we started writing each other and things developed. One day she said she was going to come to visit me. Elana suggested to her: 'I would like to share David with you.' I reserved a room in a Jaffa hostel for the two of us at Elana's suggestion, and I was with her during her visit.”

At this point, I grasped what Elana meant when she told me on the bus that there are no secrets between them, and afterward when she talked about the continuing love for her exes. The delightful couple I am with has been living in an open relationship for decades, with pleasure and satisfaction.

You’re actually talking about polyamory. Have you had many relationships like that?

“Not many, and always with people we were attracted to. Elana told me that if I’m attracted to them they must be worth something.”

...Turning to me, he says, “You’re getting more than you expected, eh?” I respond with an embarrassed smile. “Why does love have to be confining? Every love is different,” says David. “Those liaisons nourish our relationship.”

What would the relations between you look like if you’d maintained exclusivity?

“That would not have happened. I can't imagine that. I wouldn’t have married him if he didn’t have an open mind.”

David: “Even at the beginning, we went to that movie, two guys, and a girl in the middle, at 2 A.M.”

What would you say your secret is, besides the open relationship?

“That there are no secrets.”...

Here's the link to the whole article (July 26, 2015). Update the next day: Now they've put it behind a paywall ($1).


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July 25, 2015

In Europe: "How to love more than one person without cheating on anyone"

A news site in Brussels "aimed at providing the latest breaking news on welfare policies" in Europe and the U.K. presents this brief article. I'm posting it partly for the cute illustration, uncredited on the site but by artist Stasia Burrington in Seattle. She sells fine wall prints of it.

How to love more than one person without cheating on anyone

By Ilaria Lonigro

“Polyamory represents the most advanced point of developed societies.” The economist Jacques Attali, former adviser to two French presidents, François Mitterrand and Nicolas Sarkozy, is convinced of it.

But is it possible to love multiple partners without betraying anyone? Yes. You just have to get rid of exclusivity and monogamy, with total transparency and without hypocrisy. This is the basic concept of polyamory....

The degree of transparency and privacy is decided together in polyamorous relationships. You can share all your most intimate information or set a limit. That’s why “polyamory is also called ethical non-monogamy or responsible non-monogamy,” says Jade Jossen, who lived between Bologna and California, where she teaches courses on the subject. She explains: “Of course jealousy exists. I get very jealous. But it’s something you have to work on to feel more confident.”...

The rest of the article (July 24, 2015). The writer is Italian; the article also has an Italian edition: Come amare più partner senza tradire nessuno.



July 24, 2015

ABC Nightline: "Two Moms, One Dad, Two Babies Make One Big Happy Polyamorous Family"

Remember the Looks Like Love to Me triad? The two bi women in California who married each other, went looking for a man to join them, found a hunky one, recently had two babies with him, and are all making a full-length documentary about it?

Last March they let a camera crew from ABC's Nightline follow them around for a couple of days. On Thursday, Nightline finally aired the piece that resulted. It's 7 minutes long. They're adorable.

On the segment's webpage is a long text article. Excerpts:

Two Moms, One Dad, Two Babies Make One Big Happy Polyamorous Family


These Polyamorous Parents Put Controversial Spin on Child-Rearing

Dani and Melinda’s home is a little more crowded these days, filled with the two of them, their husband Jon and their two babies, Ella and Oliver.

These two moms and one dad are polyamorous, or as they call it, "a triad."

Dani and Melinda were a lesbian couple living together in northern California. But four years into their relationship, Melinda said she began to realize she also desired a man. At first, Dani wasn’t sure about sharing her partner with a man.

“I kind of call it the ‘mano-coaster,’ the notion of Melinda needing to fulfill that need,” Dani said. “Melinda has probably been the most emotionally painful experience of any of my relationships. ... I was obsessed with her and when she was not as obsessed with me as I was with her, of course that hurts.”

"[But] we got really serious," Dani added. "And she was really direct, like 'I want a family, I need a man, and we need to make this happen.'"

So, the two women created a list of qualities that would make up their ideal male counterpart and started looking.

“We didn’t want a feminine man, just because we’re both very feminine, so we wanted someone that would hold that role of masculinity,” Melinda said. “In walks Jonathan and we’re like, ‘wow.’ All of the sudden we’re recognizing this beautiful man.”

From the start, Jon said having two women was “very fulfilling” and the three of them would have sex together often.

“It was very active," he said. "It was very shared."

But this triad said their unusual relationship wasn’t just about having sex with each other.

“It’s about family," Dani said. "It’s about working together as a team, it’s about accomplishing your dreams with people, with your partners.”

A strong family unit has been their goal since exchanging vows in an intimate three-way wedding ceremony last year....

...As hard as it was for her to come out as gay to her family, Dani said it was even harder to explain to them that she was in a polyamorous relationship.

“My family was a little shocked when I said I wanted to be with women from this point on, but they were fine with it, and they got used to it,” she said. “There’s a huge poly community but unfortunately a lot of them feel like they can't be open, to be closeted. And that goes to show you it’s a lot harder to be poly than to be gay or lesbian.”

...Diana Adams, an attorney who runs a nontraditional family law practice in Brooklyn, New York, said her client list of polyamorous families has been growing, and she believes there is “a new frontier” in what defines “family” and “marriage.”

“In just 20 years we had a massive cultural shift in terms of our overall perception of whether or not it’s acceptable to discriminate against same-sex couples,” Adams said. “And what’s next is what I think is opening up the possibility to things like if we’re changing the idea of marriage can only be between a man and a woman, could it be between three people.”

But the Phoenix-Steins acknowledge that these relationships can be inherently tricky, and conflicts can arise when it comes to partner dynamics

“In any relationship there’s parts where you give and take, and you also have to be fluid in what your particular needs are and the benefits of the relationship overall,” Dani said. “There have definitely been times where I feel like I needed more and I’m not getting that and that comes up in conversation.”

...For now, the Phoenix-Steins say they are not planning to expand their “triad” but say adding more people isn't off the table.

“The family unit comes first and right now we just wouldn’t even have enough time, you know, to date anyone else,” Melinda said.

“But there are a lot of poly families that have kids," Dani added. "And let's say they are very much in the same structure as we are and have kids but they also have outside relationships. ... [But] just because you’re polyamorous doesn't mean you go and have sex with anyone. That’s not how it is at all, it means that you’re respecting love and you’re respecting it and it just happens to have more than two people.”

See the whole story (June 23, 2015).

A religious-right outlet is freaking out: How the Media is Promoting Polyamory. The New "Marriage Equality"? (The Daily Signal, July 24). But, remember, those folks are helping us. They're spreading awareness of the "poly possibility" — knowledge that happy multi-love relationships actually exist and are a real option if you learn how — to audiences we couldn't reach.

Here's all my coverage of the triad (including this article; scroll down). In May they also had an appearance on German TV (the video may not play in the US).

Update: Here's their own response to the show, in particular the part about their ongoing sexual imbalance: ABC Nightline Aired, Our Response.


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*Vice* presents an epic tale of a gay triad. And, where I've been the last couple weeks.

The reason I haven't posted here lately is not because poly hasn't been in the news, but because I was lost and gone for ten days at the Network for a New Culture's annual Summer Camp East in West Virginia, west of DC.

Preparing for Forum

It was my sixth Camp. Each year I grow more impressed at the power of New Culture's "responsible anarchy" methods for building intimate community — by cultivating transparency and curiosity, self-examination, group processes (notably ZEGG Forum), and an ethos of radical personal agency, meaning boundaries, choice, and personal responsibility in all things. Oh, and at least two-thirds of the 80-plus people were poly.

Picture a giant social petri dish in the woods — mixing human-potential workshops, a well-regulated commune; music, dance and costuming; HAI... with Burners and shack-dwellers, professors and artists, nightly tantric ritual put on by those so inclined, a swimmable creek, late-night songfests over food prep in the kitchen, challenges to self-discover almost around the clock... around every corner a scary AFGO ready to pop out (Another Fucking Growth Opportunity)... heaps of peace, love and understanding, and did I mention ZEGG Forum? After breakfast every morning.

No wonder I came home dazzled again and having to catch up on about 12 hours of sleep.

The remarkable folks who conceived and run this thing, by the way — Michael Rios, Sarah Taub, and friends and companions — are the same ones who run the Polyamory for All Seasons five-day intensive retreats four times a year at the same venue. The next one is Endless Poly Summer, coming up August 15–19. If it weren't for my day job and home life, I'd be back there in a flash.


But back to polyamory in the news.

Lots more media pieces have appeared while was away that theorize about poly marriage, following the Supreme Court's gay-marriage ruling. Some of them are thoughtful and legally well-informed. A theme seems to be developing. I'll get to that soon.

But for now, here's a tale that appeared in Vice two days ago — by a member of a long-term gay triad about how they formed and developed. Vice is a huge international magazine aimed at the young and hip. Excerpts:

How I Figured Out the Rules of My Three-Way Relationship

By Jeff Leavell

Me, my husband, and our boyfriend

Recently, while I was at lunch with a friend, she asked me about intimacy. She did it in such a way that it was clear she wasn't really asking me, she was telling me what she thought about intimacy. More specifically, what she thought about the intimacy involved in my relationship with my husband, Alex, and our boyfriend, Jon.

"I just don't understand," she said, picking at her salad as if meaning might be buried under her kale. "If you give 40 percent to Jon, then you only have 60 percent left for Alex, your husband, and I guess... Marriage is hard. Relationships are hard. Can a relationship survive on just 60 percent?"

...I thought about her kids. How when her son was born she told me he was everything, the love of her life. And when she was pregnant a second time, she worried she would never love another child as much as she did her firstborn. But then her daughter was born and she fell in love. Completely. She loved them both infinitely and separately and the love of one didn't jeopardize or diminish the love of the other.

When you are in a triad you get used to these questions....


When I met Alex I knew I had met my soulmate. We met on Scruff, a gay hookup app — his username was Spy in the Cab, a Bauhaus reference, that was a throwback to my youth. He was supposed to be a trick. Just a fuck. He was working on a movie and suggested we go to dinner. I was disappointed; I didn't want to go to dinner, I wanted to get straight to the fucking, but I conceded.

I remember the moment Alex walked into my house....


Alex is my lover and my travel buddy and my best friend. He is my partner in adventure. I obsessed over him and longed for him and fell madly in love with him. He likes to tell people I gave him the keys to my house after two weeks. I'm pretty sure I made him wait seven, but either way, we moved fast....

Alex and I were not open. We had no interest in being "poly." We had what we called a kind of "monogamy-ish" arrangement. Whatever we did together was allowed. If there was a guy we both wanted, fine. We had three-ways and four-ways with other couples. We picked up guys and went out flirting together. I loved watching Alex fuck another guy. He was so sexy and strong, such a stud. It just made me want him more....


...Jon was supposed to be just another three-way. A fuck and nothing more. We met him on Scruff.... It was a Sunday beer bust, busy and chaotic. We were going to meet at the bar for a quick kiss and to check each other out. Jon pulled up in his silver Volkswagen Beetle. I still remember watching him walk over to me, his hunched old-man gait, kind of awkward and shockingly handsome. He smiled his crooked smile. His nose was off center from being broken, his eyes serious and vulnerable, his hands at his sides, fists clenched. He was so beautiful and lost in that moment, so perfectly himself without pretense....


Alex and I would go on long walks and have endless discussions about what this meant. We were supposed to be getting married in six months. We both knew where things were headed: The question was, did we want to be moving in that direction? We had always been disdainful of triads, thinking the idea silly and overly complicated. I bought books, like The Ethical Slut and Opening Up, but none of the people in those books felt like me. Like us. I didn't want to join poly groups. I wasn't looking for a lifestyle.

I was jealous. Jealous of Alex. Jealous of Jon. I wanted them to love me, but I didn't know how I felt about them loving each other.

What became clear to me is that there is no map here. No guide to how this is done. We weren't new-ageists or vegans looking for some new tantric style of love. Alex and I weren't looking to open up. We weren't struggling in our relationship or our sex life. Things were good. We were happy with how things were.

So then why? Why were we heading down this road? We had a choice....

It was strange watching Alex fall in love with someone else. Seeing the process, sharing in it, being a part of their experience while having my own.... And I was jealous. Jealous of Alex. Jealous of Jon. I wanted them to love me, but I didn't know how I felt about them loving each other.... There were nights of high drama. Nights when I would storm out of the room, knocking things over, purposely trying to wake them, because I was mad. They had spent too much time wrapped around each other, leaving me out, on the far edges of the crowded bed, alone....


Our first official three-way fight occurred in Spokane, Washington, when Jon and I had gone to visit Alex while he was working on season two of his show. I don't even know how it began, but somewhere along the way Alex was threatening to divorce me, break up with Jon, and kick us out. I have a lot of experience fighting with Alex. He and I are similar. We are passionate and volatile. Jon is different; he isn't used to that kind of fighting. So without saying anything he booked us a room at a hotel, sure that this was over. The fight lasted close to six hours and cost us $200. It felt endless. Once two of us were OK, the third was mad. It kept going....

Because this is all new.


I have had to learn a lot about myself. I've learned that I am afraid of being abandoned, of being left.... And what you are left with is yourself. I have learned to trust myself, to be secure in who I am and in what I have to offer. I have learned to be secure in the fact that they love me, even as they love each other....


We talk about [Jon's] feelings and concerns about being in a relationship with two married guys. There are no legal protections for him. And I can't imagine they will be coming any time soon. He doesn't get to be on Alex's union insurance. My father doesn't offer to buy his ticket home for Thanksgiving. There is no simple solution to these things, so we come together, we split the extra ticket three ways, we agree to help Jon with his insurance and to all take care of each other the best we can. But still, is it enough? Does it appease that feeling of being left out? Sometimes. And I'm sure sometimes not. There is a price for the choices we have made.

Jon is like a perfect mixture of the two of us. He shares things with each of us. Sometimes he and Alex will be going off on some tangent about something they saw on Tumblr that has nothing to do with me. Sometimes Jon and I will be talking about some book we loved that has nothing to do with Alex. That's the thing we each have to accept: Sometimes you aren't a part of it. Sometimes you have to learn to love them for loving each other. To enjoy their enjoyment, even when it doesn't involve you.


We decided to introduce Jon, officially, to our families and friends at our wedding. This might have been a flawed decision, but it seemed like the only time everyone would be at one place at the same time. My 13-year-old nephew, Eli, probably handled it better than anyone. He didn't seem to really care. He just called it an "alternative relationship" that made his Uncle Jeff happy.

Me, Alex, and Jon on the day of my and Alex's wedding

Not everyone gets it.

...Alex and I got married in our small craftsman-style house in Hollywood. Our friends, mostly people from LA and New York City, welcomed Jon. Triads seem to be a thing that is happening now. I still remember someone saying to Jon, "So how do you know Alex and Jeff?" and Jon replying in his bookish, quiet way, "Oh, I'm their boyfriend."

Two weeks later he moved in....


I am in a relationship with two guys, each having his own insecurities and needs and goals. Each of us is a complete universe unto ourselves. Three-way sex is hot. Three-way fights suck. Sometimes they annoy me. Sometimes they charm me. Sometimes I want to run away and hide, be alone. We are lucky because we have a three-bedroom house and a back house that we can escape to if we need it. It's nice knowing there's a place I can go to that is all mine. It's important. It's hard not to get lost with all these people around. It is important to me that we are each given the opportunity to maintain our selves, to have our own lives and our own experiences inside all of this. That isn't always easy. It is something we work at very hard.


...When we were flying to Vancouver we all fell asleep with our heads and hands all over each other. I woke up to find people staring, not sure what was going on. A woman in the aisle next to us shook her head at me, like I had slapped her. The stewardess had the exact opposite reaction: She kept saying how adorable we were. Both reactions made me feel like a strange museum piece or an exotic animal at the zoo.

When trying to find a place to go for Valentine's Day, we ran into all the prix-fixe menus for couples. Nowhere was willing, even when I said I didn't care about the cost, to do a prix-fixe throuple menu. We ended up ordering pizza and watching My Bloody Valentine.

Nothing ever comes in threes. Everything is set up for two people....


Sometimes I will be sitting at my desk, writing or reading, and I will look over at the two of them on the couch, giggling at stupid cat GIFs, or holding hands quietly, and I will think, I am lucky. I am loved and safe. And together we will face the world, the three of us....

Go read the whole article (July 22, 2015). It's almost 4,000 words and worth it.


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July 5, 2015

Jonathan Turley: The trouble with the ‘dignity’ of same-sex [and poly] marriage

Washington Post

Jonathan Turley is the constitutional expert at George Washington University who represents the Kody Brown polygamous family (of "Sister Wives" fame) in their fight against the State of Utah. In the Sunday Washington Post today, he cites the rights and dignities of us polyamorists (yay!) but presents a different slant on the Supreme Court's gay-marriage decision.

As in, be careful what you wish for.

The trouble with the ‘dignity’ of same-sex marriage

By Jonathan Turley

...Kennedy’s moving language was more than just aspirational thoughts on dignity. He found a right to marriage based not on the status of the couples as homosexuals but rather on the right of everyone to the “dignity” of marriage. The uncertain implications of that right should be a concern not just for conservatives but also for civil libertarians. While Obergefell clearly increases the liberty of a historically oppressed people, the reasoning behind it, if not carefully defined, could prove parasitic or invasive to other rights. Beware the law of unintended constitutional consequences.

For the record, I have long advocated the recognition of same-sex marriage. But the most direct way the justices could have arrived at their conclusion would have been to rely on the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. It, along with the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, holds that all citizens are entitled to the same treatment under the law, no matter their race, sex, religion or other attributes known as “protected classes.” Kennedy and his allies could have added “sexual orientation” to the list of protected classes, making the denial of marriage licenses an act of illegal discrimination. This approach would also have clarified the standard in a host of other areas, such as employment discrimination and refusal of public accommodations.

Instead, Kennedy fashioned the opinion around another part of the 14th Amendment, holding that denial of marriage licenses infringed on the liberty of gay men and women by restricting their right to due process....

...These words resonate with many of us, but it is not clear what a right to dignity portends. As Justice Antonin Scalia predicted in an earlier dissent to Lawrence, it signals “the end of all morals legislation.” Some of us have long argued for precisely that result, but the use of a dignity right as a vehicle presents a new, unexpected element, since it may exist in tension with the right to free speech or free exercise of religion.

Dignity is a rather elusive and malleable concept compared with more concrete qualities such as race and sex. Which relationships are sufficiently dignified to warrant protection? What about couples who do not wish to marry but cohabitate? What about polyamorous families, who are less accepted by public opinion but are perhaps no less exemplary when it comes to, in Kennedy’s words on marriage, “the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family”? The justice does not specify.... The courts may not be so readily inclined to find that other loving relationships are, to quote the opinion, a “keystone of the Nation’s social order” when they take less-orthodox forms. But popularity hardly seems like a proper legal guide to whether a relationship is dignified.

With the emergence of this new right, we must now determine how it is balanced against other rights and how far it extends....

...Universities increasingly warn students and faculty not just against comments deemed racist but also against an ever-expanding list of “microaggressions,” such as the use of “melting pot” and other terms considered insensitive. This year, a Montana prosecutor sought to punish speech that exposes religious, racial or other groups “to hatred, contempt, ridicule, degradation, or disgrace.” Such laws could now be justified as protecting the dignity rights of groups and balancing the “danger” of free speech.

Obergefell would be a tragic irony if it succeeded in finally closing the door on morality and speech codes only to introduce an equally ill-defined dignity code. Both involve majoritarian values, enforced by the government, regarding what is acceptable and protectable. Substituting compulsory morality with compulsory liberalism simply shifts the burden of coercive state power from one group to another.

None of these concerns take away from the euphoria of this liberating moment. And the justices can certainly tailor their new right in the coming years. But if we are to protect the dignity of all citizens, we need to be careful that dignity is not simply a new way for the majority to decide who belongs and who does not in our “Nation’s social order.”

Read the whole piece (July 5, 2015).



HuffPost TV: "When It Comes To Marriage, Is Three A Crowd?"

Four smart poly movers-and-shakers appeared on a HuffPost Live web-TV segment a few days after the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision and Roberts' now-famous dissent. They discuss the future of the multi-marriage issue with a depth and sophistication way above what I've seen elsewhere.

HuffPost Live gave them a solid 30 minutes. Pass this one on. (Ignore the cheesy graphic:)

The blurb:

Chief Justice John Roberts stated that the majority's reasoning for backing gay marriage would also apply to polyamorous relationships. We unpack his argument and explore whether there's a case for group marriage.

The guests:

● Andy Izenson, associate attorney at Diana Adams Law & Mediation in Brooklyn, a law firm for nontraditional families.

● Billy Holder, activist and the central creator of the annual Atlanta Poly Weekend conference; vice-president of the Relationship Equality Foundation.

● Elisabeth Sheff Ph.D, sociologist and author of The Polyamorists Next Door.

● Lola Houston, anthropologist and polyactivist in Burlington, Vermont.

It originally aired June 30. Here's the webpage.


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July 4, 2015

Montana trio seeks polygamy license; "inspired by Roberts"

Victoria, Nathan, and Christine Collier
An ex-Mormon man and two women, living as a polygamous family in Montana, aim to test America's anti-polygamy laws following the Supreme Court's gay-marriage decision. Nathan Collier says he and his second wife Christine were inspired to seek a marriage license by Chief Justice John Roberts' warning that the court's gay-marriage ruling opens the way to legal multiple marriage.

First, here's a local TV report from KTVQ in Billings, Montana:

From the accompanying text (June 30, 2015):

Lockwood polygamist family seeks right to marriage

...We first told you about the Colliers in January when the polygamist family appeared on an episode of the TLC show "Sister Wives."

46-year-old Nathan Collier and his two wives, Vicki and Christine, said Tuesday that they are simply looking for equality.

Nathan is legally married to Vicki, but is looking to also legally wed Christine. The family has a total of seven children, all from previous relationships....

"We just want to add legal legitimacy to an already happy, strong, loving family," said Nathan.

..."It's two distinct marriages, it's two distinct unions, and for us to come together and create family, what's wrong with that?" said Christine. "I don't understand why it's looked upon and frowned upon as being obscene."

The couple's goal is to have their story heard. The Colliers say if the state of Montana could only recognize their marriage as legal, it could be the catalyst for other states to follow suit.

"All we want is legal legitimacy. We aren't asking anybody for anything else. We just want to give our marriage and our family the legitimacy that it deserves," said Nathan.

Nathan Collier describes himself on Facebook as “an American, conservative, Constitutionalist, capitalist, (formerly) Christian, heterosexual middle aged white male of Southern heritage.”

From an Associated Press story:

Polygamous Montana trio applies for wedding license

A Montana man said Wednesday that he was inspired by last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage to apply for a marriage license so that he can legally wed his second wife....

...Collier, 46, owns a refrigeration business in Billings and married Victoria, 40, in 2000. He and his second wife, Christine, had a religious wedding ceremony in 2007 but did not sign a marriage license to avoid bigamy charges, he said.

Collier said he is a former Mormon who was excommunicated for polygamy and now belongs to no religious organization. He said he and his wives hid their relationship for years, but became tired of hiding and went public by appearing on the reality cable television show "Sister Wives."

...Anne Wilde, a co-founder of the polygamy advocacy organization Principle Voices located in Utah, said Collier's application is the first she's heard of in the nation, and that most polygamous families in Utah are not seeking the right to have multiple marriage licenses.

"Ninety percent or more of the fundamentalist Mormons don't want it legalized, they want it decriminalized," Wilde said.

A federal judge struck down parts of Utah's anti-polygamy law two years ago, saying the law violated religious freedom by prohibiting cohabitation. Bigamy is still illegal. [Utah] has appealed the ruling, and the case is pending in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Wilde said most polygamous families are satisfied with the judge's ruling and believe taking it further to include multiple marriage licenses would bring them under the unwanted jurisdiction of the government.

But she said the Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage should strengthen their chance of winning the appeal....

Read the whole story (July 1).


● The Colliers are getting lots of attention from slippery-slope conservatives saying "we told you so!" At Real Clear Politics, Steve Chapman says their scenario is not farfetched:

From Gay Marriage to Polygamy?

If you're one of those rare people who think one spouse is not enough, your prayers may be answered. After the Supreme Court decision in favor of gay marriage, conservative critics spotted sister wives on the horizon. "Polygamy, here we come!" tweeted Weekly Standard editor William Kristol.

...The case for legalizing polygamy builds on the case for legalizing same-sex marriage. The sexual arrangements may offend some people, but they're not a crime. If they aren't done under legal arrangements, they'll be done without them.

Conservatives raise the specter of polygamy as though its evils are beyond doubt. But much of their opposition stems from religious objections, appeals to tradition or disgust with sexual tastes they do not share.

Those grounds were not enough to justify banning same-sex marriage — and in the long run, they are not enough to justify banning polygamy. If conservatives want to make sure plural marriage never comes to pass, they need better reasons.

Some plausible defenses have been heard. One is that [patriarch-centered] polygamous weddings, unlike gay ones, actually harm other people — by reducing the stock of potential [female] mates, dooming some [men] to singlehood. Another is that polygamy is associated with sexual abuse of minors.

Note that such rationales don't apply to today's secular, gender-equal polyamorists.

It may also be argued that polygamists, unlike gays, don't warrant constitutional protection because they haven't suffered relentless mistreatment.

Those arguments may be enough to keep the Supreme Court from concluding that the Constitution protects polygamy. But they aren't very convincing as arguments for banning it.

Plural marriage would decrease the supply of marriage partners — but so do informal polygamous arrangements, which take multiple people out of the dating pool.

Besides, no one is entitled to a preferred quota of possible spouses....

The abuses often seen in polygamist outposts are real, but they are more likely to flourish when Big Love can be practiced only in secret, and they can be prosecuted on their own. We don't outlaw traditional marriage because Ray Rice slugged his wife.

...None of these rationales, of course, is likely to convince the court to grant a freedom that few people want and that would produce far more complications than same-sex unions. Public opinion affects the justices, and there is no groundswell of support for plural marriage.

But maybe that's because we haven't given it much thought. Conservatives raise it in the context of same-sex marriage to create fear. They should be careful. If people bother to look at polygamy, they may find it's not so scary

The whole article (July 2).


● On the other hand, Washington Post political columnist Hunter Schwarz says it ain't gonna happen:

Support for polygamy is rising. But it’s not the new gay marriage.

...While support for polygamy is rising, it has a ways to go before it catches up with same-sex marriage, and there are plenty of reasons it's unlikely to catch on in anywhere near the same way.

For now, it's illegal nationwide, recent legal attempt to overturn bans have been unsuccessful, and public support is low. But that support is increasing.

According to data from Gallup, support has increased from 5 percent in 2006 to 16 percent today. The biggest one-year jump happened in 2011, after TLC's "Sister Wives," about a polygamist family who lived in Utah and later Nevada (the Colliers also have appeared on the show), first aired.

Washington Post

Some polygamists have become champions of same-sex marriage because they see it as as opening for them, even if it often goes against their personal religious beliefs. They've also taken cues from how opinions about same-sex marriage evolved. Getting on TV and showing people how normal you are is an important component of that.

...But polygamists will always be at a disadvantage compared to the LGBT community. The No. 1 reason people who once opposed same-sex marriage changed their mind, according to a 2013 Pew poll, was that they knew someone who was gay or lesbian. Unlike sexual orientation, polygamy isn't something most people will ever confront in their daily lives....

It's not as if people are coming out as polygamists across the country and are changing their friends' and families' minds....

But we "polyamorists next door" just might! Read the whole article (July 2, 2015).

You can google up many more recent stories on the Collier family.

Update August 28: The Colliers have decided they're prepared to run with this; they've gone ahead and filed a complaint against the state.


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July 3, 2015

"Australia Lawmaker Cites Polyamory Risk in Blocking Gay Marriage"

Gay-marriage legalization elsewhere has inspired supporters inside Australia's conservative government to quietly renew their efforts to add Australia to the list of marriage-equality countries. But their plan was leaked and blew up. The public is in favor, but Prime Minister Tony Abbott's arch-conservative Liberal Party is strongly opposed, and party discipline under the parliamentary system is severe.

The government's central argument is that gay marriage will lead to polygamy and polyamory. This seems to get more traction in Australia than in America, as I've reported before.

Here's a summary:

Australia Lawmaker Cites Polyamory Risk in Blocking Gay Marriage

Momentum toward legalizing same-sex marriage in Australia is stalling after a senior government minister said his lawmaker colleagues wouldn’t support changes to the Marriage Act as they could lead to polyamory.

...Employment Minister Eric Abetz said in a Sky News interview Thursday, “If you undo the institution of marriage by redefining it for the latest movement or the latest fad, you will open a Pandora’s Box for all sorts of other potential possibilities,” including marriage between more than two partners.

The stance of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government comes after reports that lawmakers from his own Liberal Party were banding with rival parties to draft legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. The so-called Private Members’ Bill would only be considered by Liberal lawmakers should it be voted on in parliament, which was a “rare” occurrence, Abbott said.

...Abbott, a former trainee Jesuit priest who in 2010 said he felt “a bit threatened” by homosexuality, is out of step with public opinion in Australia.

A poll last June showed almost three-quarters of voters want the law to be changed. Among them is his sister Christine Forster, who is gay, who told Fairfax Media on May 25 the government should bring on a vote to stop the issue from becoming a “political football” at next year’s election.

...The push for same-sex marriage in Australia gained renewed momentum after Ireland’s May referendum vote in favor of it. Google Inc., Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Qantas Airways Ltd. were among companies that took out a full-page advertisement calling for marriage equality.

The effort by some Liberal lawmakers to prevent passage of same-sex marriage law threatens to open up divisions in the government. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who backs marriage equality, said in May that Australia was the “odd one out” among nations including the U.K., New Zealand and Canada....

The whole article (July 1, 2015).

Polyamory was the only piece of awfulness that Abetz could cite when asked on TV news what would fly out of his "Pandora's Box." Video clip: Abetz links gay marriage and polyamory (July 2). He looks nervous.

And here's TV personality Tim Fergusen saying "Well look, I've got to say, I know a couple of polyamorous little clans, perfectly happy, they all get along, it's all very modern, it's just that Friday night there's a shedule." And he explains how polyamory differs from polygamy (July 3).



July 1, 2015

Four clueless denials that a poly marriage issue exists

Remember William Saletan of Slate? He's the type specimen of a liberal who let himself be intimidated by the right into denying that poly marriage will ever be an issue — because obviously, polyamory itself can't exist. In 2006 he wrote,

The average guy would love to bang his neighbor's wife. He just doesn't want his wife banging his neighbor. Fidelity isn't natural, but jealousy is. Hence the one-spouse rule. One isn't the number of people you want to sleep with. It's the number of people you want your spouse to sleep with.

He's probably embarrassed by that now. His current defense retreats to a new position: poly relationships exist, but they can be more or less dismissed as optional frippery.

The Case Against Polygamy

Chief Justice John Roberts says the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling paves the way for plural unions. He’s wrong.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts
(Photo by Mandel Ngan / Getty)
By William Saletan

The gay marriage war is over. The polygamy war is on.

...In their dissents, and in their questions during oral argument, the court’s conservative justices have thrown their weight behind a new issue. They’re demanding to know why, if gay marriage is a constitutional right, polygamy isn’t.

At Obergefell v. Hodges oral arguments on April 28, Justice Samuel Alito asked on what grounds a state could deny a marriage license to a foursome of two men and two women. Justice Antonin Scalia asked whether states should be required to recognize polygamous marriages performed in countries where the practice is legal. Then, in his dissent issued Friday, Chief Justice John Roberts contended that “much of the majority’s reasoning” in support of same-sex marriage “would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage”:

Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective “two” in various places, it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not. Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world.

...Roberts is wrong when he claims that Kennedy has offered “no reason at all” why the law should treat polygamy differently from homosexuality. The majority opinion offers several good reasons. It just doesn’t explain how they apply to plural marriage.

Let’s do that now.... Kennedy does a lousy job of clarifying these considerations. Let’s spell them out.

1. Immutability. Kennedy tosses this into his opinion, bizarrely, as a side comment. Referring to gays who seek matrimony, he says, “[T]heir immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.” Later, he speaks of “new insights” that have transformed society, including this one: “Only in more recent years have psychiatrists and others recognized that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.” Kennedy doesn’t elaborate on these remarks, but they’re huge. Immutability is the biggest difference between homosexuality and polyamory. Even the pro-polyamory law review article cited by Roberts in his dissent acknowledges that immutability is a crucial factor in identifying unjust discrimination against classes of people — and that “polygamists are not born that way.”

2. Loneliness. According to Kennedy, “Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there. It offers the hope of companionship and understanding and assurance that while both still live there will be someone to care for the other.” At the end of his opinion, Kennedy returns to this theme. He says gay people who are legally excluded from marriage are “condemned to live in loneliness.” You can’t say that about polyamorists. Legally, they may be condemned to monogamy. But not to solitude.

3. Exclusion. Kennedy notes that when laws forbid gay marriage, “same-sex couples are denied all the benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples.” He lists many such benefits, including tax breaks, inheritance rights, property rights, adoption rights, hospital visitation, survivor benefits, and health insurance. He also points out that children in same-sex households “suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents.” That’s not true for kids in polyamorous households. Their parents can marry — they just have to pair up, leaving one adult, at most, unaccounted for....

4. Divided loyalty. Kennedy says marriage “embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.” He doesn’t explain how these ideals distinguish homosexuality from polygamy. But they do. Fidelity and devotion are concentrated virtues. When you spread them out among multiple spouses (or, yes, even among children — that means you, Duggars), you dilute them....

5. Conflict. Countless marriages have exploded and ended because two spouses couldn’t get along. With three or four spouses, it’s that much harder to keep everyone happy....

Read the whole article (June 29, 2015).

Thomas Leavitt posted this analysis in a discussion on the Polyamory Leadership Network (quoted by permission):

These articles are useful, because they outline, in precise detail, where they think our argument is strongest, and where they think they can make points...

1. Immutability — that's easy enough to refute. Lisa Diamond's work demonstrates the fallacy of this quite nicely. SSM marriage advocates, of course, following the path of previous American jurisprudence, choose "born this way" as an easy argument to make. It's not entirely untrue, of course, many people "are born this way" (as are many polyamorists, though I think you'll have a much harder time arguing for the existence of a "polyamory" gene, given the relative dearth of research... though I'm under the impression that there are techniques that could tease such an inference out of the data), but the full truth complicates the storyline.

2. Loneliness — the death or premature loss of a spouse is devastating, it could easily be argued that having multiple partners would buffer some of that, and lead to a higher quality of life in old
age... the oral history project that included the three ex-Navy men who had a 46-year marriage is an excellent example. Not to mention that three (or more) is more company, and less lonely, than two.

3. Exclusion — this is the EXACT same argument that was made against same-sex marriage... they're not excluded, "all they have to do is marry someone of the 'opposite' sex".

4. Divided loyalty — in today's age, "fidelity" is no requirement for marriage as it is, and his comment about "even among children" shows how utterly weak it is. You don't love oldest child any less because they have a younger sibling, or vice versa. This isn't even an argument.

5. Conflict — again, staying married isn't a requirement of getting married, no one's seriously suggesting that we abolish marriage because of a high divorce rate, and the child custody issue is a total red herring here... yes, figuring that out may require some thought, but... maybe not. We have plenty of precedents in today's blended families. Just treat non-biological parents as step-parents, with all the non-rights that that implies.

...The only substantive arguments that can be made against multi-partner marriages are complexity of implementation, and given that our society has worked out legal frameworks for far more complex multi-party relationships than even the most exotic poly marriages could ever hope to achieve, that doesn't seem like a big issue.

Now, contrawise, from a litigation and legislative standpoint, I do think it makes a big difference. Changing the law to make SSM legal was essentially trivial, and did not require judges to rewrite statutes from the bench (in many cases, they bounced even the changing of the wording back to the legislative bodies with a mandate to get it done). Changing the law to make multi-partner marriages work is probably more substantive in nature, although "make it so" is still an option [for a court].

...Seriously, though, "opposition research" of this sort is valuable. And in a sufficiently mature movement, the response is not a detailed rebuttal or a debate, but simply putting out our own message. We're already way ahead of the game, when the opposition starts out by conceding multiple points, and we have the logic of a Supreme Court justice on our side, even one who is horrified at the thought of us.


● Elsewhere on the political spectrum, at Time magazine the libertarian writer Cathy Young recycles material from a 2014 article where she shrank from libertarianism in a moral panic:

Polygamy Is Not Next

The logic of same-sex marriage does not inevitably lead to multi-partner marriage

By Cathy Young

...There has also been a steady trickle of articles from the left asking what’s so wrong with legalized multi-partner marriages. Some even argue, as writer and academic Fredrik deBoer does in a recent Politico essay, that polygamy should be the “next horizon” of social liberalism.

...The battle for same-sex marriage was won, both in courts of law and in the court of public opinion, by framing the goal as “marriage equality” — that same-sex couples should have access to the same rights and privileges as their heterosexual counterparts.... The legal rights and benefits of modern heterosexual marriage are gender-neutral.... There was simply no good way to justify denying the same rights to two partners of the same sex.

By contrast, the entire existing structure of modern marriage is designed for a dyad....

There is another difference. Attempts to stop same-sex marriage floundered partly because no one could show how male/female unions would be harmed or even affected by same-sex ones. Legalizing multiple spouses, on the other hand, would immediately affect every couple by opening a potential door to new partners in the marriage. Yes, this would presumably require everyone’s consent, but at the very least, those who want monogamy would have to explicitly stipulate this,

(Saying what relationship structure you need? The horror!)

and even then a monogamy clause could probably be renegotiated later.

Inevitably, too, a movement for plural marriage rights would be accompanied by a push to destigmatize other forms of non-monogamy such as open marriage. The message that sexual exclusivity in marriage is optional — accompanied by visible and positive images of non-monogamous unions — could have a ripple effect. Before long, the spouse who insists on fidelity could be forced to justify such an old-fashioned preference.

...If social liberals in the academy and the media decide to champion non-monogamy as the next frontier of liberation and equality, they could make some headway in promoting acceptance of such lifestyle choices. But the likely result would be a new conflagration in the culture wars — particularly since, this time around, these choices do affect other people’s marriages....

Read the whole piece (June 30, 2015).


● And another, by Jonathan Rausch of the Brookings Institution, writing at Politico. His take: ignore modern, gender-equal polyamory altogether; it's all about primitive patriarchs hoarding women.

No, Polygamy Isn’t the Next Gay Marriage

Group marriage is the past — not the future — of matrimony.

I am a gay marriage advocate. So why do I spend so much of my time arguing about polygamy?...

If I sound exasperated, it's because the polygamy argument doesn't stand up to scrutiny. That doesn't stop it from popping up everywhere....

Unlike gay marriage, polygamy is not a new idea. It's a standard form of marriage, dating back, of course, to Biblical times and before, and anthropologists say that 85 percent of human societies have permitted it. This means we know a thing or two about it.

Here's the problem with it: when a high-­status man takes two wives (and one man taking many wives, or polygyny, is almost invariably the real­ world pattern), a lower-status man gets no wife. If the high-­status man takes three wives, two lower­-status men get no wives. And so on.

...The situation is not good for women, either, because it places them in competition with other wives and can reduce them all to satellites of the man.

...By abolishing polygamy as a legal form of marriage, western societies took a step without which modern liberal democracy and egalitarian social structures might have been impossible: they democratized the opportunity to marry....

There is ample evidence that polygamy has many severe consequences for third parties and for society as a whole, and the social interests at stake are very obviously related to a legitimate government purpose (many purposes, in fact). There's no way the ban on polygamy could fail a rational­-basis test....

Read his whole article (June 30, 2015).

Fredrik deBoer, the author of that flag-planting piece It's Time to Legalize Polygamy, delivers a powerful rebuttal to Rausch: Every Bad Argument Against Polygamy, Debunked (July 1, 2015).


● Richard A. Posner — a U.S. Court of Appeals judge for the 7th Circuit and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School — makes a similar comment in an otherwise insightful piece for Slate:

...But later in his opinion the chief justice remembers polygamy and suggests that if gay marriage is allowed, so must be polygamy. He ignores the fact that polygamy imposes real costs, by reducing the number of marriageable women. Suppose a society contains 100 men and 100 women, but the five wealthiest men have a total of 50 wives. That leaves 95 men to compete for only 50 marriageable women....

The whole article (June 27, 2015).


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