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

April 29, 2021

Third Massachusetts locale approves multi-domestic partnerships

Arlington, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston adjoining Cambridge and Somerville, has just joined those two cities in offering legal recognition to domestic partnerships of three or more people.

Arlington had no domestic partnership provision at all. Last night (April 28, 2021) its Representative Town Meeting voted to enact one — and also voted to amend it by adding the language "two or more" people, thanks to heads-up work by local poly activists.

The amendment with the key wording, from the sponsor's powerpoint video presented last night at Arlington Town Meeting. The amendment also included removing Section 10 from the proposed bylaw because that section's language paralleled domestic-partnered families to married families. Some feared that this wording might give the state attorney general grounds for finding a conflict with the state's anti-bigamy laws.

The "two or more" amendment, offered by local polyfamily member Amos Meeks, passed Town Meeting by a lopsided vote of 192-37. The entire bylaw as amended then passed 221-11.  

Because this is a new town bylaw, it does not yet go into effect. The town has 30 days to submit it for approval to state Attorney General Maura Healy, who then has 90 days to vet it for any conflict with state law. No problem is expected. (Somerville and Cambridge did not have to go through this procedure because they are cities, not towns, and passed city ordinances, not bylaws.)

Here is the full bylaw as passed. Here is Meeks's full "two or more" amendment

Congrats, folks! Who's next?

Update: Three days later there has been practically no media attention to this event. That's also what happened after Cambridge passed its ordinance in March, and totally unlike what happened when Somerville set the precedent last June; that event made headlines nationwide and even overseas. I guess that's normalization.

The two exceptions I find are in the local Patch.com, which had this brief mention, and in the Arlington Advocate, which ran a longer story: Town Meeting approves domestic partnership for relationships with more than two people (April 30, by way of WickedLocal.com). Here's most of it. As always, the boldfacing is mine:

By Jesse Collings

In what could be a watershed moment for multi-person relationships, Arlington became the first town in Massachusetts [Somerville and Cambridge are cities] to approve domestic partnerships of more than two people when Town Meeting approved an amendment to a warrant article Wednesday, April 28. 

The motion states the town will recognize domestic partnerships containing two or more people, which is more inclusive of people in polyamorous relationships or other non-traditional family situations. The town recognition helps people in those relationships achieve the same kind of civil rights permitted to married couples, including visitation rights at health care facilities and access to children's school records. 

Somerville and Cambridge are the only communities in Massachusetts recognizing domestic partnerships between more than two people. However, those were proposed through city ordinances, which can only be removed if appealed by private residents. Because Arlington is a town, the motion approved at Town Meeting is subject to review and approval from the state  Attorney General's office, and without any town having approved this type of motion before, Arlington will be in unprecedented legal ground when the AG reviews it. 

Originally, the article proposed at Town Meeting was to solely recognize domestic partnerships of two people. Town Meeting member Amos Meeks proposed the amendment extending the definition of recognized domestic partnerships to people who are in polyamorous relationships. Meeks said he worked with Town Meeting member Guillermo Hamlin and the Rainbow Commission, who helped put together the original article, as well as the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, an organization promoting the rights of people in polyamorous relationships. 

Meeks, who said he lives together with his two life partners, said the formal recognition would help him and anyone else in a similar relationship achieve certain civic rights, such as getting onto the insurance plans of their partners. 

"I wanted to get dental insurance through one of my partners' employers, but they required proof of a domestic partnership. Registering a domestic partnership that would not exclude a member of my family only became an option when Somerville passed their domestic partnership ordinance this past year, and I'm excited to be able to register our domestic partnership with Arlington once the bylaw goes into effect," Meeks said. 

Meeks said that childcare can also be a legal challenge for people in polyamorous relationships, and further legitimacy of their domestic partnership can make that process easier.

"I can't speak directly to anyone else's experiences, but I think legal barriers around childcare and parenting are a challenge for many people. By providing some legal recognition of the family relationship for domestic partnerships with children and by providing rights that make co-parenting kids and interacting with schools easier I think that bylaws like this one are a big step towards helping families with children," Meeks said.

...Meeks said that future measures, such as introducing protections for people in polyamorous relationships in the workplace and in child custody situations, are important improvements to be made. However, the approval at Town Meeting and the potential approval from the AG is a big step forward. 

"We are a family by any reasonable sense of the word, but not in the eyes of the town or the state. I think a really important part of laws like this is just recognition and external validation," Meeks said. "(When the amendment was approved) I felt welcomed and accepted by my neighbors. I felt proud to be part of this community, and I felt extremely grateful for the support of my fellow Town Meeting Members, especially those who helped craft the article and those who spoke up in favor of it."


●  In other legal news... The ten-year-old Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association has put out a Canada-wide call for polyam people and households to declare themselves as such for Canada's national Census Day, May 11. Personal census information (such as this) is kept private.

The CPAA Encourages Polyamorous Individuals to Participate in Canadian Census Day (May 11)

April 22, 2021 –  Statistics Canada conducts the census every five years. This study is essential for maintaining an equitable distribution of electoral boundaries, estimates the demand for services (and allocation of government funding), and provides information about the population and housing characteristics within geographic areas. This supports planning, administration, policy development and evaluation activities of government at all levels.

Why should Polyamorous Individuals Complete the Census?

We strongly encourage all polyamorous individuals residing in Canada to complete the census. We view this year’s census as an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of advocacy for the needs of polyamorous individuals and families in Canada. Data pertaining to multi-adult households, multi-parent families, and the prevalence of non-nuclear family structures is important for regional districts in terms of future planning for housing capacity, schools, and essential infrastructure.

The current census options do not allow for the inclusion of polyamory or data about multi-partner relationships, families, or other forms of open relationships. In order to advocate our need for inclusion, we need to demonstrate our numbers. Our hope is that in areas with a high concentration of polyamorous individuals and families (such as Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal), the responses we suggest below will be statistically significant enough to warrant polyamory-inclusivity by Statistics Canada studies in the future.

As more data is gathered about the numbers of polyamorous individuals within Canada, we at the CPAA will be better resourced with data that demonstrates the importance of our legal advocacy work, including working towards legal and cultural changes that permit multiple parents to be listed on birth & adoption certificates, and that allow for polyamorous partners to be legally recognized as family, common-law, and next-of-kin, without contracts of marriage. 

The census asks for basic information about your age, your relationships with the people you live with, your sex assigned at birth, your gender, what languages you speak, and a few other pieces of biographical data. If you receive the long form census (1 in 5 households receive this) you will be asked for additional information regarding disabilities, employment, and education. All identifying information is kept private, and you do not need to use your legal name to answer (a nickname, for example, is fine).

In both the short and long forms of the census, one resident is asked to complete the census on behalf of all occupants. You will be asked to list the occupants of your home and then describe their relationship to you. We are recommending that all polyamorous individuals who cohabit with any partner (regardless of whether they are married, common law, etc.) choose "Other Relationship" and write in specifics from the following, as appropriate:
Polyamorous Partner
Polyamorous Spouse
Polyamorous Metamour
Polyamorous Co-parent
Polyamorous Family Member

For more detailed information, see the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association website: http://polyadvocacy.ca/polyamourous-2021-census-participation/

 Don't miss Polyamory in the News!
 SUBSCRIBE by a feed, or
 SUBSCRIBE by email



Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home