Cambridge Officially Recognizes Polyamory

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[CORRECTION, 7 p.m. Friday, March 12, 2021:  A previous version of this story included a provision that appeared in a draft version of the Cambridge ordinance on polyamory but was not included in the final version passed by the city council. The draft version required that members of a domestic partnership “are not in a domestic partnership outside this partnership,” but that provision was removed before the vote.]


Make that two Massachusetts cities that officially recognize polyamory.

The city of Cambridge became the second Massachusetts community to do so, passing an ordinance on Monday. Cambridge now joins it’s neighbor to the north, Somerville, which began officially recognizing polyamory last summer.

Cambridge did so by changing its definition of domestic partnership. Here is how the city defines a domestic partnership now:


D. “Domestic partnership” means the entity formed by two or more persons who meet the following criteria and jointly file a registration statement proclaiming that:

1. They are in a relationship of mutual support, caring and commitment and intend to remain in such a relationship; and

2. They are not related by blood closer than would bar marriage in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and

3. They are competent to contract; and

4. They consider themselves to be a family.


Previously, a domestic partnership was between only two people. They also had to live together, be each other’s sole domestic partner, and not be married to anyone else. The city council crossed such provisions out on Monday, March 8. Additionally,  the new definition eliminates the previously existing requirement that domestic partners have to submit proof to the city that they are in a relationship.

Pleased with the ordinance, Cambridge city councilor Quinton Zondervan tweeted on Monday night, “Tonight the council updated the Domestic Partnership Ordinance to legally recognize polyamorous relationships. Thanks to @MayorSiddiqui for her partnership and leadership on this and to Somerville for getting it done first!”

Councilor Dennis Carlone told NewBostonPost in an email message, “My point of view is everyone has the right to love whomever they wish. That belief has guided me through many progressive efforts.”

And councilor Mark McGovern told NewBostonPost via email, “There are many in Cambridge who are in loving, committed, polyamorous relationships and they deserve to be protected, recognized and respected, and this ordinance does that. I was proud to have supported it.” 

The Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition put out a statement in support of the measure following the news.

“PLAC advocates hope that the new ordinance, which makes Cambridge only the second city in the nation to recognize multi-partner domestic partnerships, will inspire other municipalities to pass similar ordinances,” the group said in a press release. “PLAC has drafted sample legislation to assist cities in establishing their own multi-partner domestic partnership ordinances, as well as non-discrimination ordinances to protect polyamorous families and individuals.”

Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, opposes the move, but said that he saw it coming eventually.

“A mere six years ago, when I pointed out that polyamory was the inevitable next stop on the slippery slope of redefining marriage, I was accused of ‘fear mongering,'” Beckwith told NewBostonPost in an email message. “The next step will be redefining ‘age of consent,’ and we’ve already seen legislative efforts to do so here in MA.”

Beckwith also mentioned a bill the Massachusetts legislature wanted to pass in 2017 that, as NewBostonPost reported at the time, contained a “Romeo-and-Juliet provision designed to decriminalize sexual behavior between two consenting minors as long as the younger of the two is at least 13 and the older of the two isn’t more than two years older.”

Last summer, two members of the Cambridge city council explained their support for recognizing polyamory in email messages to NewBostonPost.

One was Councilor Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler.

“I’d be happy to see Cambridge remove those barriers as well so that all our residents can have the same benefit of visiting their partner in the hospital regardless of their relationship status,” he said. “As one of the Somerville City Councilors noted, government has historically gotten things wrong when it’s tried to define what a family is.”

The other was Councilor Quinton Zondervan.

“While Cambridge has had a domestic partnership ordinance since 1992, it is limited in applicability and scope to traditional monogamous relationships,” he said. “Cambridge should build on this pioneering ordinance by joining Somerville in legally recognizing polyamorous relationships, which are valid family arrangements deserving of equal recognition and protection.

“People in polyamorous relationships should be able to access the legal benefits that come with domestic partnership, including the right to confer health insurance benefits or make hospital visits,” he said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues and the community to update this law as soon as possible.”

There is no video of the March 8 city council meeting available yet on the city of Cambridge’s YouTube page.

Before either Cambridge or Somerville officially recognized polyamory, 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. He reminisced about how his own first relationship was with a couple, as New Boston Post reported.

NewBostonPost reached out to every member of the Cambridge city council on Wednesday morning for comment, and will update the story if more respond with comments.