This Massachusetts Town is The First in Officially Recognizing Polyamorous Relationships, But What Does That Mean?

Some residents of Somerville, Massachusetts may have something to celebrate this summer. Following a new ordinance that was unanimously voted by the city council and signed into law by the mayor, the city will now recognize polyamorous relationships as domestic partnerships. Now, residents will be able to have all the rights associated with a domestic partnership with more than one partner.  

According to Somerville City Councilor Lance Davis, in an interview with NBC Boston, it was the coronavirus pandemic that led the city to make this somewhat shocking decision. “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,” Davis said. However, this wasn't just a problem faced by polyamorous individuals; Somerville didn't have any legislation that recognized domestic partnerships, which was the main focus of the decree. The approved ordinance recognizes domestic partnerships, using language that also gives rights to relationships that have more than one partner involved.

As a result, polyamorous relationships in Somerville have many of the rights given to married couples, such as sharing health insurance benefits and having hospital visitation rights. "It validates their existence, it validates the way they love,” Davis said.

The approval of this ordinance makes Somerville the first city in the country to legally recognize polyamorous relationships at the local level. 

So what is a polyamorous relationship? 

A polyamorous relationship is one where a person of any gender has multiple partners, also of any gender. For a relationship to be considered polyamorous, all parties involved must consent to being in a non-monogamous relationship; otherwise, it's just numerous presumed-monogamous relationships where one partner is cheating on the others. 

However, there is no rule book for how to have a polyamorous relationship; each is different, and based on the needs of the parties involved. Like any other relationship, the partners do not need to live together, but have a meaningful relationship they are committed to. There are also numerous types of polyamorous relationships. In some, it's only one person who is with two or more people, who are not involved with one another, but other times, all parties are involved with one another. 

What differentiates it from a polygamist relationship?

In polygamist relationships – which are illegal in the United States – one person traditionally has multiple spouses of a different gender. It is polygamy when it is only one person who is married to more than one partner; polyamory involves a larger group of people involved with one another. 

This decision is another big win for the LGBTQ+ community in recent days. Let's hope that more places across the country follow suit.