A city in Massachusetts is doing its part to dismantle the institution of marriage, passing an ordinance that makes it one of the first cities in the nation to officially recognize polyamorous relationships.
Just as many localities have stopped defining marriage a pact that bridges the gender divide, officials in Somerville, Mass. couldn’t think of a reason to limit marriage to two partners.
The change, passed unanimously by the city council last week means that marriage there will be legally defined it as “entity formed by people” rather than by two persons.
The Somerville Journal reports that the startling change began as a last-minute addition.
Councilor Lance Davis was drafting new legislation to recognize domestic partnerships — something the city had yet to do. According to Davis, the ordinance was being revised to align requirements for domestic partnerships with those of more traditional marriages.
“The first draft required domestic partners to notify the city of any change of address,” said Davis, “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.”
Then, only an hour before the ordinance was set to be voted on, Councilor J.T. Scott asked why its wording confined a partnership to just two people.
“I said, ‘I don’t have a good answer,'” Davis told the Journal. ” … So, I pulled it out, went through quickly making whatever word changes necessary to make it not gendered or limited to two people.”
The new language went before the council on June 25, and was signed into law by the mayor four days later.
It’s estimated that 4% to 5% of people living in the U.S. are currently participating in polyamorous relationships, or what’s otherwise known as consensual or ethical non-monogamy, a practice in which partners maintain more than one sexual or romantic relationship with each others’ knowledge and consent.
Non-monogamy is about as prevalent as the number of Americans who identify as LGBTQ, which is estimated to be about 4.5% of the American population.