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Polyamorous domestic partnerships recognized by Massachusetts city council — perhaps a first in US

'When society and government tries to define what is or is not a family, we've historically done a very poor job of doing so'

Photo by RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP via Getty Images

The city council in Somerville, Massachusetts, unanimously approved an ordinance recognizing polyamorous domestic partnerships earlier this week, the MetroWest Daily News reported.

The paper said Monday the city "quietly became one of the first" in America "if not the first" to do so.

What are the details?

A few word changes in the city's new domestic partnership ordinance was all it took, the Daily News reported, noting that "entity formed by two persons" was changed to "entity formed by people," and "he and she" was replaced with "they," and "both" was replaced with "all."

Somerville is in the process of changing its domestic partnership application to include space for more than two partners, the paper said, but polyamorous partners soon will be able to file.

Ward 6 Councilor Lance Davis, who chairs the Legislative Matters committee that reviewed the ordinance, told the Daily News that fellow Councilor J.T. Scott asked him about word changes just before last Thursday's council meeting.

"[He] reached out and said, 'Why is this two?' And I said, 'I don't have a good answer,'" Davis recalled to the paper. "I tripped over my words a bit, and played devil's advocate, but I had no good reason. So, I pulled it out, went through quickly making whatever word changes necessary to make it not gendered or limited to two people."

Davis added to the Daily News, "I've consistently felt that when society and government tries to define what is or is not a family, we've historically done a very poor job of doing so. It hasn't gone well, and it's not a business that government should be in, so that guided my thinking on this."

Princeton prof sounds off

Robert P. George — McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University — on Thursday said, "Now that we're actually seeing the formal legal recognition of polyamory, you can count me as the least surprised person in the country."

George, in his Facebook post, pointed to an article he wrote five years ago contending that "the acceptance and legal recognition of polyamory would soon follow 'same-sex marriage.'" He added that his prediction "didn't take any great insight. Certainly no crystal ball was needed. It was simply a matter of following the logic."

Here's the rest of George's post:

Marriage is a conjugal relationship. It unites a man and woman as husband and wife in a comprehensive sharing of life founded on their biological (bodily) reality and complementarity — a bond uniquely apt for the conceiving, bearing, and rearing of any children who may come of their union. It is shaped and normatively structured by that aptness, whether in any particular case the spouses have or even can have children together.

All of this is elementary and, in a certain sense obvious: Even now, everybody knows that if Homo sapiens were not a species that reproduces sexually, no culture would ever have developed the concept of marriage. And yet, secular progressive ideology over a period of some decades obscured it and gradually eroded people's understanding of it and commitment to it.

The redefinition of "marriage" as sexual-romantic companionship or domestic partnership is perforce its abolition. Once the conjugal nature of marriage is compromised to render the sexes ("gender") of the "spouses" irrelevant, there can no longer be any principled reason to restrict the number of "spouses" or "partners" to two. If gender doesn't matter, then number doesn't matter either. There is no logical way around that.

Now that we're actually seeing the formal legal recognition of polyamory, you can count me as the least surprised person in the country. It's bad, and in the larger historical context shocking, but once we abolished the core concept of marriage as conjugal union this development was inevitable. Polyamory would follow same-sex marriage as night follows day.

Anything else?

Somerville's Mayor Joseph Curtatone, who signed the ordinance into law Monday, made headlines in 2018 when he vowed to never drink Sam Adams beer again after he found out that Jim Koch — the Boston Beer Company's founder and chairman — thanked President Donald Trump for his administration's tax cuts.

One last thing…
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