Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

June 21, 2018

That Canadian polyfamily with three official parents? The CBC finds and interviews them.

Although it hit the news only last week, a poly family in St. John's, Newfoundland, made legal history on April 4th when a judge granted three adults status as parents to their child. The family maintained their privacy even while getting international attention.

Now they've talked to CBC-TV News / Newfoundland, using their initials and photos that conceal their identities. The click below jumps you to the polyfamily segment (4 minutes long).

On the show's website is an article with many photos:

All in the family

Meet 3 parents who won a historic legal victory for polyamorous families

Text by Jonny Hodder, Photos by Paul Daly

Three parents who have made Canadian history by winning a court’s recognition as a legal family are still adjusting to their status as pioneers for polyamorous rights.

"I'm absolutely stoked about it," said a woman known to the courts as C.C., who with her partners — two men named J.M. and J.E. — won the right to be listed as parents on their daughter's birth certificate.

"I think the world is going in the right direction, and I'm so happy, proud, baffled that we made a difference in this."

In April, a judge in the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court's family division issued a decision that made them the first polyamorous family in Canada to have more than two people legally recognized as a child's parents.

"[That] was a big elephant in the room. It was a big weight on our shoulders," said J.E. "And the fact that it's a first is cool. That's great — I love it."

Polyamory is the practice of people engaging in intimate, romantic relationships with more than one individual at a time, but with the consent of all those involved.

...Polyamorous relationships can take many forms. In their particular case, J.M. and J.E. are each involved in separate, committed relationships with C.C., the child’s mother, but not with one another.

Meanwhile, all three live together — each adult has their own bedroom — and share parenting responsibilities of their daughter, whom they call Little A.

C.C., J.M., and J.E. met with CBC News in their St. John’s home. CBC News has agreed to not use their full names in order to protect their daughter’s privacy.

Contrary to what people may assume, the three do not often share a bed together.

"Three people, it's a lot of people to have everything condensed to one room," said J.M. "I don’t know if you've ever slept in a bed with two other people before, but it's very warm, high chance of snoring happening. There's a lot of limbs."

C.C. makes a distinction about the relationship dynamics.

"I'm polyamorous. The boys are both monogamous," she said.

"It's not that I split the love; it's that I have a lot of love. It took a little bit of trust on their behalf … because this was all new to them. Their ideal wasn’t to be in a polyamorous relationship, but it is ideal now."

Although the two men are not romantically involved with one another, they had been best friends for nearly a decade prior to meeting C.C. at a local music festival. While some may bristle at the thought of sharing a long-term romantic partner, both J.E. and J.M. say it was a relatively smooth transition.

"I don't remember it being that tumultuous. Everything kind of flew naturally," J.E. said.

"We live in a culture where everyone's born to think if someone loves one person and has sex with one person, then that means that’s it," said J.M. "But when you open your mind to that concept, you realize there can be more than one person that someone has feelings for."

Given those societal norms, the three were preparing themselves for a drawn-out court battle. Their lawyer, Tracy Bannier, had advised them there was no previous legal precedent in Canada for a polyamorous family seeking to have all parents' names on a birth certificate. (Although, Canadian courts had previously recognized that a child can legally have more than two parents in cases involving biological and same-sex parents.)

...They were... surprised at how quickly Justice Robert Fowler delivered his decision.

"We were expecting a call from our lawyer to get our next court date, and she called me and she was like 'Hey! ... So, your request has been accepted,'" C.C. said.

"And she kind of giggled on the phone, like, 'Yeah, it's done! So Little A has three parents!' ... I just literally started to cry here."

In his written decision, Fowler noted that there was "an unintentional gap" in the Children’s Law Act of 1990 regarding the legal status of polyamorous parents. Rather than prohibiting more than two parents, the nearly three-decade-old document simply doesn't take into account “the now complex family relationships that are common and accepted in our society.” ...

Read the whole article (June 20, 2018).

● Also out yesterday, in The Lawyer's Daily in Canada: N.L. polyamory parenting decision puts children first, lawyers say (June 20):

By Terry Davidson

An unusual court decision declaring two men as parents to a child born into a polyamorous relationship with a woman drives home the justice system’s precept of doing what’s best for children and furthers its attempts to keep up with changing familial realities, experts say.

According to the written decision (C.C. (Re) 2018 NLSC 71), a child was born into the relationship in 2017. Neither man wanted to know which one was the biological father and both sought to be recognized as the child’s parents along with the mother.

Lawyers for the province maintained that Newfoundland’s Children’s Law Act (CLA) does not allow for more than two people to be named as parents of a child.

But Justice Robert Fowler ruled it would be in the best interests of this child to name both the men as its parents. ... “In the present case, the child … has been born into what is believed to be a stable and loving family relationship which, although outside the traditional family model, provides a safe and nurturing environment. The fact that the biological certainty of parentage is unknown seems to be the adhesive force which blends the paternal identity of both men as the fathers. … I can find nothing to disparage that relationship from the best interests of the child’s point of view.”

When asked for comment, Newfoundland’s Department of Justice and Public Safety had little to say.

“This decision is still under review to determine whether or not there is merit for an appeal,” a spokesperson said in an e-mail. “As such, we are not able to comment further at this time.”

The decision speaks to the justice system keeping its eye on the changing face of the Canadian family, said Jodi Lazare of Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law in Nova Scotia.

“The courts are recognizing that the concept of family is becoming increasingly diverse through [things such as] same-sex marriage, through increasing … resort to assisted human reproductive technologies, and I think this is the court acknowledging that a legal regime that doesn’t recognize that diversity does a disservice to citizens — and particularly children,” said Lazare, adding that children “have always been conferred a sort of special status by the law,” which “should be the driving force in parentage determination.”

Tracy Bannier, of Curtis Dawe Lawyers, acted for the trio.

“In the Children’s Law Act, there are places that refer to the mother of a child and the father of a child,” said Bannier. “Certainly, at this point in time, it would never be read to mean that a child could have only one mother or could only have one father. Our argument was the legislation didn’t specifically prohibit a child from having more than two parents. It just simply hadn’t considered the fact that a child may have more than two parents. That point in time when the Children’s Law Act was brought in, it didn’t consider even that a child could have two moms.”

This case is similar to a 2007 Ontario Court of Appeal decision where the female partner of a woman impregnated by a male friend was declared one of the child’s parents.

When asked about the Newfoundland case, St. John’s lawyer Kellie Cullihall, of Gittens & Associates, called it “a victory for people who have non-traditional relationships and their children,” but said there could be unique complications should there be a relationship breakdown of some kind. ...

But professor Rollie Thompson, also of Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law, doesn’t see it that way.

“If the relationship breaks down, it just falls into pretty standard Canadian law — it’s no big deal,” said Thompson. “...For example, both of them would have to provide child support to the mother if all three of them split up. The finding of status has rights and obligations that flow from that.”


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June 20, 2018

Playboy: "Are Some People Just Slapping the 'Poly' Label on Their Cheating?"

Playboy is still around (who knew?), and a writer for it weighs in against what I've long thought is the greatest threat to the future of our movement: the misappropriation of our big idea's defining word.

I think the threat is receding. The actual precepts of modern polyamory — ethical, honest, equal, and respectful toward everyone involved — are becoming widely recognized in society. Stories like this, which address the problem head-on, are part of why.

Are Some People Just Slapping the "Poly" Label on Their Cheating?


By Sophie Saint Thomas

“I had been spending time intimately with someone on multiple occasions when I learned he had a girlfriend,” says Melissa Vitale, a New York City-based publicist. He said that his relationship was open and that he was “ethically non-monogamous.” As it turned out, Vitale’s lover’s girlfriend was not aware that he was sleeping with others under the false label of ethical non-monogamy. “I later found out that he was full of shit. He's just a small man who cheats on his beautiful girlfriend,” Vitale says.

New York magazine reported in 2017 that 20 percent of Americans had practiced polyamory at some point in their lives. As a side effect of the normalization, are more people not only misusing the term, but using it as an excuse for bad behavior — therefore stigmatizing non-traditional relationships and stomping on the hard work advocates have done to help normalize such relationships in the first place?

Anyone who has spent time on a dating app recently has likely noticed a rise in people identifying as ethically non-monogamous and polyamorous. The Latin translation of polyamory is “many loves,” and polyamorous people don’t just have sex with, but date and love more than one person. Polyamory is a form of ethical non-monogamy, but the two words are not interchangeable. Ethical non-monogamy is an umbrella term for open relationships formed on consent, trust, and honesty, and includes polyamory, swinging, and relationships in which a couple is emotionally exclusive but occasionally sleeps with others.

Historically, such communities are marginalized compared to the monogamous norm. While monogamy still reigns supreme, in recent years, ethical non-monogamy and polyamory have become more normalized and even trendy, thanks to books such as The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert, and Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. All of the above titles should be required reading for anyone entering an ethically non-monogamous set-up.

The increasing acceptance of polyamory is great news for those who have long had to keep their relationship structure in the shadows. “What is better than having more love in your life? One thing we lack in society is love,” says sex therapist David Ortmann on the pros of the rise of polyamory. However, open relationships are not for everyone. Depending on your attachment patterns, monogamy may be the best option for you. “With polyamory becoming trendy, people are putting it on their dating profiles, without any sense that it’s more than just fucking a lot of people. It requires a tremendous amount of communication and empathy, compassion and honesty,” Ortmann says.

We’re reaching a point culturally where there are enough people being non-monogamous that folks are starting to use that label inappropriately, and that’s going to happen with any label.

We see non-monogamy within “monogamous” relationships in the common practice known as cheating. Some people who cheat get off on the secrecy and sneaking that accompanies seeing someone behind their partner’s back. “Sometimes people get off on lying, that is their fetish,” says sex therapist Dr. Denise Renye. If you’re in an open relationship and wish to integrate secrecy into your sexual encounters, you can consensually negotiate that with your partner. “Most things are possible as long as consent is present. If the consent is not present, this completely clashes with the principles of ethical non-monogamy,” Dr. Renye says.

However, some folks seem to have attended Burning Man once, learned the word “polyamory,” stuck it on their Tinder bio, yet continued to date in a manner that involves non-consensual lies and secrecy. When they’re called out, they throw up their hands and say, I told you that I was poly! “They are attempting to sugarcoat their cheating styles. I do not necessarily think that people always know what they are talking about,” says sex educator Jimanekia Eborn.

Some folks, such as Vitale’s lover, may use words like “ethically non-monogamous” to cover up bad behavior. Others may simply be brand new to the poly lifestyle and in need of an education. “Do you even know who you are? Or do you know what kind of relationships actually work for you? You can also be hurting yourself in the process,” Eborn says. ...

Zachary Zane, a New York City-based writer, dated a woman who identified as poly, but did not live by its principles. “She would start dating someone new and completely forget about her previous partners. While all of us in the poly world cut a partner some slack when they start dating someone new and are in the midst of NRE [a poly expression for new relationship energy, or the giddy rush of joy you experience when you first start seeing someone], she never seemed to get over the NRE — until she found someone new and then forgot about her previous partner(s) altogether,” Zane says.

...You can avoid such misunderstandings by taking the time to think about what you’re truly looking for: one partner, multiple partners, or just multiple partners until you fall in love? ...

“A lot of us have been trained from the mainstream model to not ask tough questions about what realistically are you looking for, what are you available for, and what does your model for this kind of relationship look like?” says sex-positive psychologist Dr. Liz Powell. If you’re in a period of your life in which you want to be poly, but feel you may end up in a monogamous set-up one day, one argument is that it’s better to just identify as single. ...

The plus side to identifying as open or poly, even if you may not always be that way, is the transparency. If you tell multiple partners that yes, there are others, and no, it won’t just be you right now, you don’t have to worry about hurting feelings with false pretenses. However, if you’re dating other poly people, you do have a responsibility to talk about what that word means to you. While it can be flexible to you, it may be a lifelong lifestyle to another, and vice-versa. ...

“We’re reaching a point culturally where there are enough people being non-monogamous that folks are starting to use that label inappropriately, and that’s going to happen with any label,” Dr. Powell says. There’s a term known as “poly preaching,” which refers to poly people taking on an enlightened attitude that they date the way that humans are meant to — that it’s more intelligent than monogamy. While that is true for some, it doesn’t mean that poly people don’t mess up. And they should be allowed to.

“I think non-monogamous communities sometimes like to think of themselves as these like beautiful utopias full of enlightened people, who never have relationship drama. They only have relationships made completely of love and free of jealousy and fear. And that’s just not real. I’ve been non-monogamous on and off for 18 years, and I still have issues sometimes. We are all imperfect, messy humans,” Dr. Powell says. The key to being an ethical messy person, and not a harmful one, is honesty.

The original article (June 11, 2018).


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June 19, 2018

"A ‘spillover’ effect found in consensually nonmonogamous relationships"

It doesn't always happen, of course. But as polyfolks have long known, when one romantic partnership is fulfilling, the goodness tends to spill over to benefit other romantic relationships, as a new study finds.

First, a short report on the study in PsyPost, a psychology news feed:

A ‘spillover’ effect found in consensually nonmonogamous relationships

By Eric W. Dolan

New research on consensually non-monogamous relationships indicates that having one partner who meets your sexual needs is linked to increased satisfaction not only in that relationship, but also in a concurrent relationship. The study was recently published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

...The study of 1,054 individuals in consensually non-monogamous relationships found evidence that sexual need fulfillment in one relationship could “spill over” to another relationship. The researchers found that having sexual needs met by one partner was associated with greater satisfaction with another partner.

“I think one takeaway even for people who are not in CNM relationships is that it might be possible for need fulfillment in one relationship to have benefits for other relationships,” [coauthor Amy ]Muise told PsyPost. “Of course, there may also be times when seeking need fulfillment outside of a relationship may not be beneficial.”

“In the future, it would be ideal to look at need fulfillment (beyond sexuality) across relationships. So how does perceiving a partner as motivated to meet your needs influence your relationships with friends and family members?”

The study has some limitations.

“One major caveat is that this sample includes people who are consensually involved in multiple relationships, it does not suggest benefits to non-consensual additional relationships,” Muise noted. “One question that needs to be addressed is why perceiving one partner as responsive is beneficial for (or detracts from) another relationship — Are people having more needs fulfilled, etc?”

The study, “Sexual need fulfillment and satisfaction in consensually nonmonogamous relationships“, was authored by Amy Muise, Andrew K. Laughton, Amy Moors, and Emily A. Impett.

The article (June 16, 2018).

● As reported in more depth on the feminist site Bustle: Non-Monogamous Couples Who Are Satisfied In One Relationship Are More Likely To Be Happier With Another, Study Finds (June 18)

Ashley Batz/Bustle
By Lea Rose Emery

If you apply the "grass is always greener" theory to poly and consensually non-monogamous relationships, it might seem like everyone would constantly be unsatisfied. They would be thinking about what they don't have in one relationship and what they do have with another person. But yet, people have very happy poly and non-monogamous relationships. A new study... shows why that might be the case. In what they're dubbing a "spillover" effect, researchers recently found that for consensually non-monogamous couples, being satisfied in one relationship can "spill" over into another.

There were actually two studies that looked at 1,054 individuals in consensual non-monogamous relationships. In the first study, they found that those who were more sexually fulfilled in their primary relationship also experienced greater relationship satisfaction in their secondary relationship. The second study was a little more complicated. Researchers looked at how satisfaction in a secondary relationship affected the primary connection. They found that men who were more sexually fulfilled in a secondary partnership also reported higher satisfaction with a primary partner, but women who were more sexually fulfilled with a secondary partner were less satisfied with their primary partner.

But overall, it seemed like the "spillover" effect was a positive one — satisfaction in one relationship translated into satisfaction in another. The interesting thing was that researchers thought this might extend outside of non-monogamous relationships. ... "In terms of monogamous relationships — I have been thinking about this more broadly, like whether having non-romantic relationships (friends, family) who are communal/ fulfill needs could be associated with more satisfaction in a romantic relationship and vice versa," Muise says. ...

● The paper's abstract:

Consensually nonmonogamous (CNM) relationships allow individuals to fulfill their sexual needs with multiple partners, but research has yet to investigate how having one’s sexual needs met in one relationship is associated with satisfaction in another relationship. We draw on models of need fulfillment in CNM relationships and theories of sexual communal motivation to test how sexual need fulfillment in one relationship is associated with satisfaction in another, concurrent relationship. Across two studies, individuals in CNM relationships (N = 1,054) who were more sexually fulfilled in their primary relationship reported greater relationship satisfaction with their secondary partner. In Study 2, men who were more sexually fulfilled in their secondary relationship reported greater relationship satisfaction with their primary partner, but women who were more sexually fulfilled with their secondary partner reported lower sexual satisfaction in their primary relationship. Implications for communal relationships and need fulfillment are discussed.

The full paper is behind a paywall; get it through an academic library. Reference: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0265407518774638


So in the poly context, it's not a competition. The authors don't go here, but I will: Compersion in humans is normal and, when societal conditions permit, fairly common.


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June 18, 2018

More on Canadian ruling for a child having three poly parents

The news last week that a Newfoundland judge granted legal parentage to three adults in a poly household — they were functioning as co-parents, and the judge found that recognizing this fact was in the best interests of the child — spread all over Canada and reached a few other places. It certainly blew up in the poly world. My post about it became this site's fastest-shared post ever, with 12,000 hits the first day.

Here's the basic story if you missed it, this time as told Thursday in the Toronto Star:

Three adults in polyamorous relationship declared legal parents of child

By Michael MacDonald | The Canadian Press

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — In what is believed to be a legal first in Canada, a court in Newfoundland and Labrador has recognized three unmarried adults as the legal parents of a child born within their “polyamorous” family.

Polyamorous relationships are legal in Canada, unlike bigamy and polygamy, which involve people in two or more marriages.

In this case, the St. John’s family includes two men in a relationship with the mother of a child born in 2017.

“Society is continuously changing and family structures are changing along with it,” says the decision, by Justice Robert Fowler of the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court’s family division.

“This must be recognized as a reality and not as a detriment to the best interests of the child.”

The April 4 decision says the unconventional family has been together for three years, but the biological father of the child is unknown. The family members are not identified in the decision, which was released Thursday by the court.

It’s not the first time a Canadian court has recognized that a family can have three legally recognized parents. In 2007, for example, the Ontario Court of Appeal recognized two women in relationship as the mothers of a child whose biological father was already deemed a legal parent. But the three adults in that case were not in a relationship.

The three people in the Newfoundland case turned to the courts after the province said only two parents could be listed on the child’s birth certificate.

Lawyers for the province’s attorney general argued that the provincial Children’s Law Act does not allow for more than two people to be named as the legal parents of a child.

The lawyer for the family, Tracy Bannier, said the law has not kept up with changes in Canadian society.

“It wasn’t that the legislation was specifically prohibiting any child from having more than two parents,” she said in an interview Thursday. “It’s just that the legislators at the time simply didn’t consider a family structure with more than two parents. Because it didn’t prohibit it, there was a gap in the legislation.”

In his decision, Fowler said his decision hinged on what was in the best interests of the child.

Fowler said the child was born into a stable, loving family that has provided a safe and nurturing environment.

When the Children’s Law Act was introduced about 30 years ago, he said, it did not contemplate the “now complex family relationships that are common and accepted in our society.”

The judge said it was clear the legislation was aimed at assuring equal status for all children, but he agreed that the law included an unintentional gap that acts against the best interests of children born into polyamorous relationships.

“I have no reason to believe that this relationship detracts from the best interests of the child,” Fowler’s decision says.

“On the contrary, to deny the recognition of fatherhood (parentage) by the applicants would deprive the child of having a legal paternal heritage with all the rights and privileges associated with that designation.”

Toronto-based lawyer Adam Black said the most significant legal implications of this case will arise when polyamorous relationships break down.

“How do we use the current model to resolve the issues that arise when there are three parents, particularly with respect to issues of property and support — the financial side of the breakdown?” said Black, a partner in the family law group at Torkin Manes LLP.

“For me, this is very much uncharted waters. It’s a new frontier in family law. ... The legislature may need to turn its mind to these issues to have the legislation keep pace with the evolution of what a family looks like today,” Black said, adding that the Ontario legislature modified some legislation last year with the All Families are Equal Act.

“There’s seems to be a bit of appetite for these types of changes,” he said.

The original story in the Star (June 14). Same story on the CBC. En Français.

● The news prompted a widely reprinted, very basic Poly 101 from the same reporter, who seemed new to the concept — and who couldn't think to find a better picture than the Mormon polygamists whom the text says are not about polyamory. Hey, Journalism 101?! To not confuse your readers, run a picture of what the story is about, not what the story says it's not about!

Five things you need to know about polyamory

By Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press (agency)

...It was believed to be a legal first in Canada. However, many Canadians were left with one big question: What does polyamorous mean? Here’s five things you need to know:

1. There is no definitive definition, but there are a few basic principles.... There’s an added dimension that typically involves a high degree of openness and trust about the voluntary arrangement....

That picture: Winston Blackmore and wives.
(The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward/2008)
2. Polyamorous relationships have nothing to do with bigamy or polygamy. ... Last July, two men in British Columbia were found guilty of polygamy. Winston Blackmore, 62, was married to two dozen women, while James Oler, 54, was found to have married five women. Both are leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bountiful, B.C.

Boyd said these arranged marriages were part of a patriarchal structure that led to “serious, negative social effects within that community.”

“They were mandated by God and there’s no pretence of equality,” he said. “And it’s mandatory.”

By contrast, polyamorous relationships are voluntary.

“The key is that whatever (polyamorous) relationships look like, they are consensual,” he said. “Everybody knows what’s going on. Honesty and transparency are at the core of it all.”

Boyd said his research has found that among those who consider themselves polyamorous, there’s a heavy emphasis on equality, regardless of gender, sexual identity and parenting status.

3. We really have no idea how many people are polyamorous, but there has been some fascinating research. ...

4. Polyamory is not just another term for what “swingers” do.
...Polyamorous relationships emphasize emotional and egalitarian aspects, while swingers focus on sexual non-monogamy and emotional monogamy.

That said, a polyamorous person may engage in swinging, while swingers sometimes develop emotional bonds with their sexual partners.

5. Children are frequently part of polyamorous families. The data compiled from Boyd’s 2016 survey showed that 40 per cent of respondents said there were children living in their homes full- or part-time. ...

Still, the recent case in Newfoundland and Labrador drew attention to the fact that the law hasn’t kept up with the evolution of Canadian families. ... In his decision, Justice Robert Fowler of the provincial supreme court said: “Society is continuously changing and family structures are changing along with it. This must be recognized as a reality and not as a detriment to the best interests of the child.”

● Religious conservatives weighed in, including in the US. For instance, in The World, The Rise of Polyamorous Parenting (June 15)

By Kiley Crossland

...Neither the court nor the polyamorous triad acknowledged that a DNA paternity test could easily identify the biological father. Fowler instead said that denying “dual paternal parentage” would not be in the child’s best interest. ... The Canadian triad intends to raise the child without knowledge of his or her biological father, a goal that will likely prove impossible as the child grows up and starts to look like one of the two men. ...

● The polyfamily in the case remains anonymous. But the story brought attention to, and congratulations from, some local poly connunities. This appeared in The Telegram of St. John's, Newfoundland: Local polyamorous group applauds Newfoundland and Labrador court decision on three-parent family (June 15).

By Tara Bradbury

A local support group for people who identify as polyamorous is applauding a recent Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court decision declaring two men the fathers of a one-year-old boy.

“Amazing!!! So thrilled to see our province as a pioneer in the field of polyamory!” wrote the administrators of a social media page for Polyamory/Non-Monogamy Support Group NL. “And a huge congrats to the parents! All the best!”

...Fowler gave his decision in April, though it was released publicly just this week.

Others who posted public comments on the local polyamory/non-monogamy site shared the organization’s applause.

“Deadly, sure,” wrote one. “It takes a village to raise a child and as a parent I can tell you if I had two other people to help out some days it would be a huge relief.”


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June 12, 2018

"All three adult members of polyamorous family deemed child's parents by Newfoundland judge"

This just in from Canada, in the Financial Post and other newspapers in the same chain today:

All three adult members of polyamorous family deemed child's parents by Newfoundland judge

Financial Post file photo
By Laurie H. Pawlitza

In the first decision of its kind in Canada, all three adult members of a polyamorous family have been recognized as parents of a child.

Two months ago, Justice Robert Fowler of the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court (Family Division) in the case of Re C.C., decided the adults would be named as parents of the child born within their three-way relationship.

In the introduction to his decision, Justice Fowler described the unconventional St. John’s household:

“J.M. And J.E. are the two male partners in a polyamorous relationship with C.C., the mother of A., a child born of the three-way relationship in 2017. The relationship has been a stable one and has been ongoing since June 2015. None of the partners in this relationship is married and, while the identity of the mother is clear, the biological father of the child is unknown.”

The three adults brought a court proceeding asking to be recognized as the parents of A. after the Newfoundland Ministry of Service refused to designate them as parents, saying that the Vital Statistics Act allowed only two parents on the child’s birth certificate.

In his ruling, Fowler observed that “the child, A., has been born into what is believed to be a stable and loving family relationship which, although outside the traditional family model, provides a safe and nurturing environment…. I can find nothing to disparage that relationship from the best interests of the child’s point of view…. To deny this child the dual paternal parentage would not be in his best interests. It must be remembered that this is about the best interests of the child and not the best interest of the parents.”

Both Canada and the U.S. have innumerable organizations supporting or connecting people in polyamorous relationships: there are 36 in Quebec and Ontario, and 22 in British Columbia alone.

John-Paul E. Boyd, who has written about the the polyamorous community in Canada for the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family, has defined polyamory as “multiple romantic relationships carried out with certain assumptions and ideals: of honesty and clear agreements among partners, mutual good will and respect among all involved, intense interpersonal communication, and high ethical standards.”

...The legal issues arising from polyamorous relationships are new, as Justice Fowler observed: “There is little doubt that the legislation in this Province has not addressed the circumstance of a polyamorous family relationship as is before this Court, and that what is contemplated by the Children’s Law Act is that there be one male and one female person acting in the role of parents to a child.”

In the Act, there is no reference “which would lead one to believe that the legislation in this province considered a polyamorous relationship where more that one man is seeking to be recognized in law as the father (parent) of the child born of that relationship.”

Justice Fowler relied heavily on the 2007 decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, A.(A.) v B.(B)., in which a lesbian couple sought to have both women legally recognized as the mothers of a child.

...There is little doubt the recognition of three parents will be the least legally complex aspect of polyamorous relationships. Family law legislation across Canada now recognizes only one spouse’s obligation to the other. ...

The whole article (June 12, 2018).

UPDATE: This is not unprecedented. For a US case, see these legal comments.


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June 11, 2018

"People Are Calling Out 'Alex Strangelove' For Confusing Polyamory With Pansexuality"

I post this as an example of how youth media we've never heard of feel seriously invested in the word polyamory being used correctly. An article in PopBuzz today:

People Are Calling Out 'Alex Strangelove' For Confusing Polyamory With Pansexuality


Netflix's latest teen movie Alex Strangelove is getting a lot praise for its LGBTQ friendly storyline but some are puzzled by the way it discusses polyamory.

If you haven't seen the film already, the story follows Alex Truelove (Daniel Doheny) who is determined to lose his virginity to his girlfriend. However, after he meets Elliot at a party, he starts to question his sexual identity. The film has received largely positive reviews and people are fawning over Alex and Elliot on social media. But there's one line in the film that mentions polyamory that has left people confused.

As most people know, polyamory is the practice of engaging in multiple emotional or sexual relationships with the consent of all the people involved. Yet some people feel that when the subject of polyamory comes up in the film, the writers might have gotten the definition wrong.

The scene goes a little something like this: Alex walks into a bedroom at a party and meets Elliot and his friend Gretchen for the first time. Alex wrongly assumes that they're in a relationship and comments that they're cute together, to which Gretchen responds: "I think so. If only Elliot were straight or bi...or poly. Then at least I'd have a chance."

"What's poly," asks Alex.

"It's some new things that some kids at our school are experimenting with. Polyamory", Gretchen responds. "Except this one. Sorry, ladies."

Just because Elliot is gay — rather than bi or straight — that doesn't mean he couldn't be polyamorous too. The line in this context doesn't make much sense.

People are now questioning whether the writers have confused polyamory with pansexuality - when a person is not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.

So what the hell is going on?

Some people have suggested that this is might be clumsy writing rather than a total misunderstanding of the definition of polyamory. Perhaps the writers added 'polyamory' to that line to mention Elliot's relationship preferences, as well as his sexual identity. ...

Despite this, there is still a lot to love about Alex Strangelove and we would recommend that people watch the movie - but it might be wise to make sure you have the correct definition of polyamory first.

The whole article (June 11, 2018), including video clips of the offending dialog.

The Alex Strangelove trailer:


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June 8, 2018

NY Times Mag profiles an extraordinary queer teen triad

The New York Times Sunday Magazine has a stunning beautiful story in this Sunday's "Love City" issue (online early). It's about three Brooklyn high school students in love, and the happily genderfluid youth world they are embedded within.

You've got to read this. Excerpts to get you started:

Hanna, Beaux and Harry: A Love Story

Hanna (right) with her boyfriend, Harry, and her girlfriend, Beaux, at Hanna’s house in Brooklyn.

Text by Elizabeth Weil | Photographs by Isadora Kosofsky

HANNA, AGE 17, WOKE up from under the “Dear Evan Hansen” poster she’d duct-taped to her ceiling, pulled on her good jeans, brushed some glitter across her cheeks, ran her fingers through her rainbow hair and walked with her mother, a rabbi, down Church Avenue, in Brooklyn, to shul. Her boyfriend, Harry, was already there, 16 years old and newly manly in his purple button-down shirt. The two sat down in a fluorescent-lit room, ate bagels with schmears and discussed their coming Advanced Placement exams, disappearing into each other in that calm, fractal way of a couple inside a bubble of love that is itself floating deep inside a sea of love. Then they joined a classroom of 7-to-9-year-olds to help the religious-school teacher explain how Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

...In the synagogue, during the services that followed, Hanna and Harry sat in the back, his fingers tapping on her knee, her head resting on his shoulder, their chins occasionally tipped toward God as they sang prayers like show tunes. ... Everybody stared and smiled at them with the confidence that all was right in that tiny corner of the world....

Two by two may have worked for Noah’s animals in the (heteronormative!) Bible, but these are people — specific, glorious, teenage people — and their hearts are much bigger than anyone could imagine. As congregants spilled into the temple foyer and wished one another “Shabbat shalom,” Beaux, Hanna’s girlfriend, appeared — her face tough, tender, searching, critical, defended and vulnerable all at once. She wore boots, baggy jeans, shark-tooth earrings and a silk camisole, and her head was shaved.

...Over lunch at a big round table in the temple basement, Beaux looked at Hanna and said to the world, but mostly to Harry, “She’s so pretty!” Harry and Beaux shared a moment of mutual appreciation over Hanna’s adorable nose freckles. Now, at the end of 11th grade, the three teenagers moved with a flowing intimacy — their bodies melting, looping and reconfiguring like the liquid in a lava lamp. A 10-year-old girl, watching them, became so mesmerized that she inserted herself in the middle, on Beaux’s lap.

Beaux was patient and kind but did ask, “Don’t you have other 10-year-olds?”

“I also have feelings,” the girl said.

Hanna, meanwhile, stood behind Beaux, rubbing Beaux’s head with such tender affection that an older woman nearby asked, “Is she being blessed?”

Beaux (right), Hanna and Harry at a playground in Brooklyn.

On the rainy walk back up Church Avenue to Hanna’s house, Hanna, Beaux and Harry cycled through those seemingly profound topics that teenagers have been discussing forever.... Hanna floated between Beaux and Harry. She’s the quietest of the bunch, and her heart seems almost miraculously whole and unbroken, like a cake hot from the oven before the surface cools, contracts and cracks. This is perhaps a result of the fact that Hanna is a person who falls in love with one thing and then falls in love with another thing and then, instead of letting go of the first, just adds on. She loved all the Harry Potter books, and then she loved all the Percy Jackson books, and she still rereads them both. ... And so it was with Harry and Beaux.


...Harry [had] handled Beaux’s request extremely well. He was a mensch already and had been friends with Hanna in ninth grade, when she talked about almost nothing but her love for Beaux. He did not want to be the kind of boyfriend who kept his girlfriend from chasing her bliss.

When they arrived at Hanna’s house after shul, the three kicked off their shoes and flopped together on the wide, tawny brown couch in the living room. Beaux pretended to whisper in Harry’s ear and then licked it instead. I lost track of their limbs.

“No one in New York is straight!” Beaux texted me a few weeks earlier. “ESP not high schoolers.” She was not entirely kidding.

Harry extracted himself from the girls and sat up. “If our life is a sitcom,” he explained, “I’m the token straight guy.”

Beaux has a theory: San Francisco is the capital of white gay men. New York City is the center of queer youth. “When you are queer, that becomes like a huge part of who you are,” Hanna told me, “because you just start to be like, Damn, I’m so gay, constantly.” You’re sitting watching “Castle,” and Stana Katic comes on-screen, and you’re like, Damn, I’m really gay!” ...

But the city is not all one big sparkly unicorn of love. Hanna and Beaux are lucky, they know that. ... Hanna’s house is where a bunch of Hanna and Beaux’s friends plan to come if they get kicked out of their own homes. The space is a monument to comfort, supersaturated with chairs, books, blankets, snacks, humanity, tea bags, extra beds and warmth. ...

Go read the whole thing (online June 7, 2018), then share it.


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June 7, 2018

Mic.com looks at the future of poly marriage by 2030

"The story is out on mic.com and I'm really disappointed," writes Diana Adams, a leading lawyer for alternative families. "A sensationalist headline that provokes hatred, like we're trying to take marriage from everyone, and conflation of polyamory and polygamy throughout. He even said I listed Sister Wives as an example of poly in the media — I certainly did not. Sigh. This is why I have such poor trust in journalists."

What do you think? Excerpts:

What will the future hold for LGBTQ rights and representation? With this year’s Beyond Pride series, Mic looks forward to see how the radical changes in recent years will continue to transform our culture.

Marriage, Deconstructed: The Next Battle for Marriage Equality Could Mean the End of Marriage

(The Multiamory podcast crew: Jase Lindgren, Emily Matlack, Dedeker Winston)

By Steve Friess

A windowless, basement-level law firm conference room in suburban Kansas City was hardly the most romantic setting for Anne, David, Benjamin, Seth and Donna to affirm their various commitments to one another, but it would have to do. David and Benjamin wanted Anne and Donna to have certain parental rights for 8-year-old twins born to Donna, who call the women mom and ma. Donna wanted Seth, Benjamin and Anne to have equal say in her health decisions if she became incapacitated. They all wanted hospital visitation rights for one another. David, Benjamin and Donna also arranged for all three to appear on the deed of the home they sometimes share. Other permutations of wills, living wills and powers-of-attorney were settled as well.

Such customized patchworks are what pass for forms and gradations of “marriage” for polyamorous Americans.... Efforts to bring legal support to such complex interlocking relationships are also likely to become more commonplace by 2030.

“We know it’s weird to some people, but this is us,” says David, the only one of the quintet willing to talk — and under the condition that only their middle names be used. “There are things we want to protect if we can. But there are things we don’t want to be legally obligated to, too.”

Indeed, marriage itself is facing a devolution. Adults in increasingly unconventional relationships are trying to peel off pieces of what is now an all-or-nothing proposition and mold it to their interests and circumstances.

“We’re moving toward more of that unbundling, deconstructing of marriage down into parts so that people can access them and so we can allow for more creativity in family configurations,” said Diana Adams, an attorney based in New York City and Frankfort, Germany, whose practice focuses on guiding people involved in untraditional relationships. “Historically, you’re either married or you’re not married. This allows for the possibility of acknowledging families as they really exist in the United States. … I hope in 15 years we see a movement toward people being able to create legal relationships with the person or people of their choosing without the government being the arbiter of whether their sexual or romantic relationship is worthy of getting tax and immigration and other benefits.”

The concept of polyamory remains fairly new to most Americans. ... Modern polyamory “is more like interconnecting two-person relationships,” explains Dedecker Winston, 30, who co-hosts the weekly Multiamory podcast with Emily Matlack, 30, and one of Winston’s romantic partners, Jase Lindgren, 35. Matlack has also dated both Lindgren and Winston in the past. Winston splits her time between life with Lindgren in Los Angeles and life in Singapore with another man, Alex, who also has other relationships; Lindgren has another girlfriend, Crystal, who lives with her longtime girlfriend.

...That, they admit, is a lot for most people to comprehend — or for the government to accommodate, given how marriage laws have long been specifically designed to bestow a series of rights and privileges on two-adult units. The notion that any jurisdiction in the United States might fully recognize a triad — some poly folks dislike the portmanteau “throuple,” FYI — by the end of the next decade seems preposterous even to poly advocates.

“I don’t expect marriage among more than two people to be legally recognized in the foreseeable future,” said attorney Jonathan Lane, whose poly-friendly family-law practice is based in Washington D.C. “It’s easier to imagine government benefits being disconnected from marriage rather than having them apply to three people. It may be preferable to get the government out of the business of privileging romantic and sexual relationships entirely.”

Ironically, it is opponents of gay marriage who seem most convinced that legal polygamy is coming — and soon. In his dissent in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case that struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage. …"

So far, lower courts in Utah and Montana have summarily dismissed the idea of legal polygamy as the next logical step, and the Utah legislature actually increased penalties for polygamy in 2017. A spate of similar lawsuits in Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas and Alabama — filed by anti-same-sex-marriage activists seeking, oddly, to somehow undermine Obergefell by creating rights to polygamy or marriage between people and inanimate objects — have gone nowhere.

Those lawsuits are the work of outliers and saboteurs, and they represent an illogical conclusion of what many polyamorous families want, Matlack said.

“People who are willing and interested in multi-partner relationships have already divested themselves of the dream of finding one soulmate and getting married and it being forever,” she says. “There are more people who are vocal about just securing rights for single people. We know a lot of poly people who have actually given up their legal marriages. They’re still together but they want to be less hierarchical and be equal to everyone else involved in the relationship.”

The baby steps that may portend some broader legal acceptance and protection of poly families have occurred in the area of child-rearing. In March 2017, most notably, a New York judge granted custody of a 10-year-old Long Island boy to all of his parents, two women and a man who were once, but are no longer, in a three-way relationship. ...

The Long Island decision, heralded as a novelty because it involved an explicitly polyamorous situation, actually built on rulings by several state courts that first sought to resolve sticky custody questions that arose in divorces in which the child’s interest was served by ongoing relationships with adults such as former stepparents. ...

“The law often plays catch-up to how people are living their lives, and the ability to secure parental rights and responsibilities for more than two parents is a good example of that,” Lane says. ...

The whole article (June 4, 2018).