Residents in Somerville, Massachusetts, may now have more than one loving partner and have some marriage rights, following a new ordinance recognizing polyamorous relationships that was unanimously approved by the city council and signed by the mayor.
It was some safety restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic that led the city of Somerville to legally recognize polyamorous relationships.
“They were having a hard time visiting their loved ones in the hospital, you know they weren’t married. During COVID-19, this obviously became more of a concern,” said Somerville City Councilor Lance Davis.
Davis says after hearing multiple complaints like this, they realized Somerville didn't have an ordinance that recognized domestic partnerships. They drafted one and approved it, with language that recognizes couples that have more than one partner.
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"It validates their existence, it validates the way they love,” Davis said.
Davis says he knows of multiple polyamorous homes in Somerville that will now have some rights held by married couples, such as health insurance benefits or hospital visitation rights.
“I think it’s great," Somerville resident Ellen Jacobs said. "It’s a lifestyle choice, it’s something that doesn’t hurt anybody, it’s just confined to the people in the relationship and why shouldn’t they have the same rights that other types of families have?”
“If there’s any policies or government that can support expand your freedoms then that’s what kind of what this country was built on even if it’s good or bad,” Somerville resident Tushar Banerja said.
To be clear, polyamorous relationships are not the same as polygamy. In polyamory, any person of any gender can have multiple partners. The gender does not matter. Whereas in polygamy, one person, typically heterosexual, has multiple spouses of a different gender.
"When the government has tried to define what is and not a family, we’ve done a really poor job at in the past, we’ve had a bad record of doing that. So, I didn’t have a good reason why we ought to do it here,” Davis said.
The ordinance was unanimously approved, making it one of the first in the nation to legally recognize polyamorous relationships at the municipal level.