"Polyamorous people worry Bountiful polygamy case will impact them." And Canadian poly study results
|"Winston Blackmore, left, is alleged to have married 24 women in the practise of “celestial” marriage, while James Oler is believed to have five wives." (Jeff McIntosh / Canadian Press)|
After more than a decade of legal wrangle, two leaders of a fundamentalist Mormon community in Canada have been found guilty of polygamy and face jail. In 2011 British Columbia's supreme court decided that Canada's law against polygamy is allowable, while carving out an exemption for people in polyamorous relationships that do not involve formalized multiple marriages.
However, the polyamory exemption is less than complete. "Polygamy," the court ruled, includes not just multiple marriages formalized by the state (which would require committing fraud to get an invalid marriage license), but also marriage-like ceremonies that have some other kind of binding power, such by Blackmore and Oler among the fundamentalist Mormons in Bountiful, British Columbia.
The Toronto Star, and its chain of papers Canada-wide, is reporting on the extent of the polyamory carve-out:
Polyamorous people worry precedent on Bountiful polygamy case will impact them
By Tessa Vikanders | StarMetro Vancouver
Polyamory and polygamy both include non-monogamous relationships, but lawyers and members of the polyamorous community say the buck stops there.
Although the two practices are vastly different, some polyamorous people worry the laws against polygamy could impact them.
On Tuesday, a Crown prosecutor recommended that Winston Blackmore and James Oler of Bountiful, B.C., be given jail time after they were convicted of practising polygamy, for having married 24 and five wives respectively.
The judge has yet to sentence the men, who are the first two people to be convicted of polygamy under Canada’s criminal code in more than 100 years.
Family lawyers say the case won’t have any direct impact on the polyamorous community, because the polygamy law is in place to prevent multiple marriages, and it doesn’t prohibit multiple romantic relationships.
John-Paul Boyd, director of the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family, said polygamy is a patriarchal practice and includes forced marriages that are said to be mandated by god.
“Those two things are the key distinctions between what’s happening in Bountiful and the experience of people who identify as polyamorous,” he said.
“Polygamy involves one dude and a harem of women, but for polyamorists the potential range of relationships are endless ... and people place a very high value on equality, regardless of gender.”
Jenny Yuen, [with a] forthcoming book Polyamorous: Living and Loving More, has two romantic partners. Polyamory, she said, is about respect, and both of her partners can be with other people.
“It’s open, it’s fluid, everyone knows what’s going on and consents to it,” she said. ...
Things can get sticky though, when polyamorous people want to get married and have a ceremony.
barbara findlay, a lawyer who specializes in gender and family law, said the law stipulates that three people living together for two years, in a polyamorous “triad” relationship, are given common law status, but they can’t have a legal marriage with a ceremony.
Zoe Duff, co-ordinator and spokesperson of CPAA [the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association], said people contact her “all of the time” with questions about whether the laws against polygamy could affect their polyamorous relationships.
“Recently I’ve been getting people who want to do some type of ceremony for their triad, and they’re concerned about the legality of it ... but when you get into ceremonies there can be problems,” she said.
Based on her consultations with lawyers, Duff said she usually tells people to avoid having a ceremony if possible, especially for those who are looking to sponsor a spouse for immigration purposes. But for those who feel strongly about it, there are ways around it.
“If it’s not a religious ceremony, incorporated in an organized way, it will skirt the law,” she said.
findlay said the government needs to update family laws to reflect the polyamorous relationships and families that already exist. But immediate protections for polyamorous people are not required.
“People in polyamorous relationships are not at legal risk of being arrested or prosecuted for being in a polyamorous relationship,” she said. ...
The whole article (May 16, 2018).
● This comes after a Canada-wide study on poly households and their legal needs made the news. An article in Canada's The Lawyer's Daily sums up some of its findings:
Mapping the demographics of polyamory
By John-Paul Boyd
The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family began a national study of polyamorous individuals and polyamorous relationships in 2016. The institute’s first research paper on the subject was summarized in a previous article in The Lawyer’s Daily [Polyamorous relationships might be the next frontier for family lawyers, Sept. 17, 2017] discusses how polyamorous relationships are and are not accommodated by the domestic relations legislation of Canada's common law provinces, and it provides an overview of the initial results of its national survey on polyamory.
The institute’s second research paper was released in December 2017 and presents a detailed analysis of the data collected from the survey. It examines the sociodemographic attributes and attitudes of people identifying as polyamorous, the composition of polyamorous relationships and perceptions of polyamory in Canada, with the goal of better understanding the prevalence and nature of polyamory to inform the development of family justice policy and legislation.
The survey, which ran over a course of seven weeks in the summer of 2016, yielded 480 valid responses. The majority of respondents (91.6 per cent) lived in British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec. Most respondents were aged 25 to 34 (42.3 per cent), identified as female (59.4 per cent) and described their sexual orientation as heterosexual (37.3 per cent) or bisexual (31.7 per cent).
Respondents to the institute’s survey tended to be younger, better educated and wealthier than the general Canadian population. ...
The whole article (March 14, 2018. Registration wall.)
Boyd notes there that 55 percent of the survey's respondents had taken no legal steps to formalize the rights and responsibilities of the members of their relationships. The steps most often taken were "the execution of emergency authorizations, cohabitation agreements, school authorizations, medical powers of attorney and legal powers of attorney." Three-quarters of the respondents felt that the Canadian public increasingly accepts poly relationships.
Boyd also points out that "The legal needs of those involved in cohabiting polyamorous relationships can be complicated, and determining how those needs can be addressed through the current law on domestic relationships, wholly predicated on the assumption that all family relationships involve only pairs of adults, can be still more so. Lawyers assisting the polyamorous must be highly creative and prepared to reassess their understanding of the law. However, given what we know about the demographics of the polyamorous community, serving the needs of this community has the strong potential to develop into a stimulating and lucrative practice niche."
Boyd is the executive director of the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family in Calgary.
|Vanier Institute / BigStock photo|
Here are the survey's two original reports, as published on the University of Calgary's Faculty of Law site:
– Polyamorous Families in Canada: Early Results of New Research from CRILF (Aug. 24, 2016)
– Second CRILF Report on Polyamory Studies Sociodemographic Attributes and Attitudes (Mar. 27, 2018).
● Regarding the Canadian situation, in Law Times: Consider research when it comes to polyamory, by Rebecca Bromwich (Sept. 18, 2017).
● Also: in the US last month, the Brown Law Offices in Champlin, Minnesota, published Exploring the Legal Complications of Polyamory for Americans (April 18, 2018).