Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

February 14, 2024

Polyamory non-discrimination bills introduced in Berkeley and Oakland

Oakland City Hall

The cities of Berkeley and Oakland, California, will consider passing ordinances to protect people in non-standard families and relationship structures from discrimination in housing, the workplace, and elsewhere because of their family structure or relationship status.

Backed by local polyfolks, city councilors in each of the adjoining locales developed the bills with the help of the lawyers and activists in the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition (PLAC). This is the group that worked successfully to pass similar measures last year in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts. (Both of those and neighboring Arlington, Mass., had previously enacted measures expanding domestic-partnership eligibility to households of more than two adults.)

OPEN, the Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Nonmonogamy, led the local organizing push in Berkeley and Oakland to identify sponsors of the measures and mobilize local supporters. 

This latest news comes by way of the press release below from the Chosen Family Law Center, whose leaders are among the co-founders of PLAC. Stay tuned.


Berkeley and Oakland Introduce Historic Nondiscrimination Bills Protecting Diverse Family and Relationship Structures

In a coordinated effort, members of Berkeley and Oakland City Councils have introduced bills aimed at extending nondiscrimination protections to nonmonogamous families and relationships, alongside other non-nuclear family structures. These initiatives position Berkeley and Oakland at the forefront of progressive cities recognizing and safeguarding the rights of diverse family and relationship structures within the United States.

The proposed bills in both cities prohibit discrimination in areas such as housing, business establishments, and public services on the basis of family or relationship structure. The ordinances protect diverse families and intimate relationships, including multi-partner/multi-parent families and relationships, step-families, multi-generational households, non-nuclear family structures, consensually nonmonogamous relationships, and consensual sexual and/or intimate relationships, including asexual and aromantic relationships. 

Berkeley and Oakland are the first cities on the West Coast to introduce these bills, following the passage of similar protections in Somerville and Cambridge, Mass. in 2023. The introduction of these ordinances reflects a growing social understanding of the diverse forms that families and relationships take today, as well as increasing advocacy efforts by groups like OPEN (Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Non-monogamy), which led a grassroots push for the introduction of the bills, and the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, which drafted the bills.

Diana Adams (they/them) is Executive Director of Chosen Family Law Center & Co-Founder of Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition. They commented: “Since 2007, I have represented thousands of clients in beautiful constellations of family beyond nuclear, including polyamorous families. I’ve represented many clients in child custody cases in which inaccurate stigma about being polyamorous was used against them. The impact of this nondiscrimination law on non-nuclear and polyamorous families extends beyond the cities in which it passes. These laws raise awareness about the many forms of modern family, and declares discrimination against them unacceptable and unlawful. That reduces stigma for us everywhere.”

Andy Izenson (they/them), Senior Legal Director of Chosen Family Law Center, Clinical Instructor at the LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic at Harvard Law School, & Co-Founder of Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, said, “Our work at the Chosen Family Law Center is built around pushing the state to recognize families, whatever shape they make take, as built around mutual care and interdependence – not because of some value inherent to recognition, but because of the benefits and protections currently afforded to a narrow slice of families and denied the rest of us. This is what a win for chosen families looks like: not just understanding, but material protections from eviction, firing, healthcare discrimination, violence  — dangers that face all of our community members.” 

“Oakland has always been at the forefront of efforts to promote justice and inclusivity. It is time that we acknowledge our large and growing community of diverse relationships and family structures, and ensure these communities have equal rights and legal protections in all aspects of life,” said Oakland City Councilmember Janani Ramachandran (District 4), sponsor of the Oakland bill. “As Oakland’s first LGBTQ Councilwoman of color, I am committed to making sure our progress as a city is intersectional.”

“As society advances towards recognizing the diverse family structures existing today, we now see the nuclear model as but one of many beautiful options, with love—not structure—being the prevailing essence of family,” shared Dr. Heath Schechinger, Founder of the Modern Family Institute & Co-Founder of Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, which helped to draft the legislation. “Every family, including polyamorous ones, should have equal legal protections, and it's heartening to witness this crucial step in cultivating a society that cherishes the liberty to form secure families on their own terms.”

“With the introduction of these non-discrimination ordinances, Berkeley and Oakland are poised to join three Massachusetts cities in being the first in the nation to extend legal protections to people with diverse family and relationship structures,” said Alexander Chen, Founding Director of the Harvard LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic. “We are pleased to see California and Massachusetts continue their roles as national leaders in reforming our nation’s laws and policies to better serve all Americans.”

"The introduction of these protections in Berkeley and Oakland represents an important step towards a future where all family and relationship structures are respected and protected,” said Brett Chamberlin, Executive Director for the Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Non-monogamy, an advocacy organization working to advance rights and acceptance for non-monogamous families and relationships. “It’s also a testament to the growing power of the movement to normalize non-monogamy.” 

“Berkeley must stand united against discrimination of all kinds,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Terry Taplin (District 2), who sponsored the bill in Berkeley. “No one in a nontraditional household should find themselves unfairly excluded from public services or economic opportunities. As a gay Black Berkeleyan raised by a single mother, protecting our community’s diversity will always be a key goal in my public service, and families with nontraditional structures deserve our protection.”

This move is applauded by polyamorous individuals and organizations across the country, who have long faced stigma and discrimination. These bills are an essential step forward in the movement for family inclusivity and recognition of the increasing diversity of families in the United States.

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Anonymous Anna said...

The permalink isn't working for me and I want to share this piece. Is it just me? <3 @newpolyanna

February 14, 2024 6:00 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

It's working now. Thanks!

February 14, 2024 8:59 PM  

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