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Massachusetts city officially recognizes polyamory as part of a new domestic partnership ordinance

The ordinance, passed by the Somerville city council last week, is believed to be the first of its kind across the United States.

Massachusetts city officially recognizes polyamory as part of a new domestic partnership ordinance
Image Source: FilippoBacci / Getty Images

Following a new domestic partnership ordinance announced in a meeting last Thursday, the city of Somerville, Massachusetts will officially recognize polyamorous relationships as valid. The City Council passed the ordinance in light of the ongoing pandemic; many individuals hope to meet their partners who they are not married to when they are admitted to the hospital. As these hospitals only permit next of kin or legally recognized partners to visit, those in non-traditional relationships were discriminated against. Councilor Lance Davis, who supported the ordinance, believed it may be the first ordinance of its kind across the United States, CNN reports.


The ordinance was brought to the City Council by those who could not visit their partners who were admitted to the hospital after they had tested positive for the Coronavirus. Right before the Council met on Thursday last week, Councilor JT Scott made the suggestion to Davis to include relationships involving more than two people—in other words, polyamorous relationships. Councilor Davis also made the recommendation to tweak the ordinance so partners would not be required to live together or inform the city of change of address in order to visit their loved ones in the hospital. He stated, "During our initial conversations, a couple [of] things jumped out. The first draft required domestic partners to notify the city of any change of address, which struck me as not in line with what married folks have to do, and required that they reside together, which again struck me as something I'm not required to do as a married person, so we got rid of those provisions."


The ordinance was signed into law on Monday by Mayor Joseph Curtatone. This is the city of Somerville's first domestic partnership ordinance, which means it now joins nearby cities Boston and Cambridge which also have similar ordinances in place. It comes as no surprise that three major cities in the state of Massachusetts would be some of the first US cities to push forward such legislation. After all, the state was the first one to make same-sex marriage legal all the way back in 2004. Councilor Davis, who received positive feedback about the ordinance, said he hoped other states would follow in Somerville's footsteps.


"Folks live in polyamorous relationships and have for probably forever. Right now, our laws deny their existence and that doesn't strike me as the right way to write laws at any level," he said. "Hopefully this gives folks a legal foundation from which to have [a] discussion. Maybe others will follow our lead." Monogamy in the United States is a prized institution. Though non-traditional forms of co-living are becoming increasingly more common, legal frameworks are yet to recognize these relationships as valid (or at least as valid as traditional cis-heteronormative marriages). Hopefully, the law will catch up quickly as it has been estimated that four to five percent of all those living in the country are currently in polyamorous relationships, otherwise known as consensual or ethical non-monogamy.


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