Somerville Embraces Threesomes

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/07/02/somerville-embraces-threesomes/

The Somerville City Council has adopted an ordinance offering domestic partner status and benefits to those living in three-people-or-more domestic relationships.

The council vote occurred Thursday, June 25. Mayor Joe Curtatone signed it into law Monday, June 29, according to WickedLocal.com. But it didn’t attract much attention until yesterday.

The ordinance provides local government recognition for polyamory, which is the practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships that are consensual. But the language of the ordinance does not require domestic partners to be in a romantic relationship – only that they live together and that “They consider themselves to be a family.”

The original version of the domestic partner ordinance was proposed in April by Matthew McLaughlin, president of the Somerville City Council, to address situations where unmarried people living together are not able to get access to the health insurance of their partner, which a resident in that situation suggested is particularly important during the coronavirus emergency.

Neighboring Boston and Cambridge have longstanding domestic partnership ordinances, but Somerville did not. The Boston and Cambridge ordinances presuppose a relationship of two people living together.

But that seemed unjustifiably discriminatory to Lance Davis, a city councilor and chairman of the committee that worked on the ordinance in recent weeks.

During the city council meeting Thursday, June 25, Davis presented amendments allowing domestic partnerships to apply to three or more people.

Below is a partial transcript of what Davis said. (It starts at 1:30:32 of the video of the city council meeting, which is available on the city’s web site.)

 

Thank you, Mr. President. So, this item is, as I said, has been in committee for a few weeks.

It was originally proposed by [inaudible] McLaughlin. We, as I mentioned in the committee report, we made some changes. But I left it in committee for two weeks because – [pause] — you know, I didn’t know why then, and I know why now. Something, something didn’t feel right. And I wanted to just – when I read the report two weeks ago I said, “I hope folks take a look at this, and let me know if we’re missing something here, ‘cause I just want to make sure we don’t screw something up.”

And, shame on me for not having seen very clearly what was missing here. But I, I, I now do. It was brought to my attention that we, we – this, this, this item, the ordinance as it is currently drafted, quite frankly is contrary to arguments that I’ve made, in, in, in sitting at the horseshoe going back to I think even my first year on the council. Which is that I don’t think it’s the place of government to be telling people what is or is not a family. And that defining families is, is, is something that, you know, historically we’ve gotten quite wrong as a, as a, as a society. And, and we ought not continue to try and undertake to do so.

And specifically as it relates to this, to this ordinance, there are places in this ordinance where the domestic partners are, are, are – specifically, “domestic partnership”’ means ‘the entity formed by two persons, who meet the following criteria and jointly file a registration and statement proclaiming that …”

And as I have said, in several other – several other points – thinking back, the first point, I believe, was when we were talking about the ‘no more than four’ concept in zoning. And I said, “Well, why should we be the ones to define what is and is not a family?”  You know, that’s — When governments try to do that, as I‘ve said, we’ve gotten it horribly wrong.

So I would like to move to make several amendments to this ordinance, the proposed ordinance that’s before us. And they all relate to effectively just taking out the “two person” part, and just leaving it, leaving it unstated.

And if somebody is – If the next question is, “Well, what happens if 20 people want to come, and claim that they are domestic partners?” I guess my answer’d be, “Well, what if they do?”  You know, I have no more to reason to feel that that’s an issue than, than, than two people, frankly. And I don’t think that’s ever been an issue.

 

The city council voted 11-0 for the ordinance.

No one spoke against the ordinance or the amendments during the meeting.

Councilor J.T. Scott thanked Davis for his polyamory amendments “that I wholeheartedly support and would be happy to have before us for a vote tonight…”

McLaughlin, the council president, also expressed support.

“I definitely appreciate these amendments. I appreciate that you’re looking out for people in the neighborhood. However, I am frustrated that you are out-woking me tonight, on my own order,” McLaughlin said (at 1:40:30 of the video).

The approved Somerville ordinance states in part:

 

The City of Somerville recognizes the diverse composition of its citizenry and values its people. The City acknowledges that many laws governing family relationships were enacted in a time when not all families were properly recognized. The City, recognizing its commitment to nondiscrimination and fair treatment of its citizens and employees, adopts this ordinance acknowledging domestic partnerships. The ordinance allows persons in committed relationships who meet the criteria established by the City as constituting domestic partnerships to register at the office of the City Clerk and obtain a certificate attesting to their status.

 

John Long, Somerville city clerk, told New Boston Post by email Thursday, July 2 that the clerk’s office is setting up the registration process for the new domestic partnerships, which will cost $50 plus $15 for a certified copy of the document.

City officials say it’s not clear whether health insurance companies will offer coverage to domestic partners in relationships envisioned by the new ordinance. But the new status provides official recognition from the city government.

It’s not wholly isolated, either.

On June 8, a member of the board of selectmen in the town of Arlington, which is northwest of Somerville, with North Cambridge in between, floated the idea of government recognition for polyamorous relationships, reminiscing about how his own first relationship was with a couple, as New Boston Post reported.

Somerville is a tightly packed city of about 81,000, covering 4.2 square miles. It’s north of Cambridge and west of the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston. Hillary Clinton carried Somerville in November 2016 by a margin of 82.5 percent to 10 percent over Donald Trump.

Somerville has registered 81 marriages so far in 2020, the city clerk said.

The text of the amended version of the new Somerville domestic partnership ordinance is below. The portions in red change language originally intended to apply to relationships of two people to include multiple-partner relationships.

 

 

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