Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office Unsure If Polyamory Is Legal In Massachusetts

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It’s not yet clear if Adam, Eve, and Steve will be able to make it official in towns across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office is trying to decide whether or not a domestic partnership bylaw from the town of Arlington that recognizes polyamorous relationships is legal in the Commonwealth; representative town meeting members approved the bylaw at the town’s April 2021 annual town meeting.

So far, the Attorney General’s office says it’s not sure, and has delayed its final ruling yet again.

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s office told NewBostonPost on background that the deadline has been pushed back another month:  from November 27 to December 27. The spokesman said that the office can request extensions when needed. She also said that there were novel legal issues with the case. A novel case is one in which “no precedent can be found,” according to USLegal.

Part of the reason why the case is not so simple is that the Commonwealth has a law against polygamy. While polygamy is commonly understood as being married to multiple spouses at the same time, the Commonwealth’s anti-polygamy law may not allow for polyamorous relationships without being married to multiple people. Polyamory is the practice of more than two people being involved in a romantic relationship together.

Here is what the state’s anti-polygamy law says:


Section 15. Whoever, having a former husband or wife living, marries another person or continues to cohabit with a second husband or wife in the commonwealth shall be guilty of polygamy, and be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than five years or in jail for not more than two and one half years or by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars; but this section shall not apply to a person whose husband or wife has continually remained beyond sea, or has voluntarily withdrawn from the other and remained absent, for seven consecutive years, the party marrying again not knowing the other to be living within that time, nor to a person who has been legally divorced from the bonds of matrimony.


Arlington, a town of about 46,000 about 6 miles northwest of Boston, has a representative town meeting form of government. Town voters elect 252 residents of the town to represent them at Arlington Town Meeting, which functions as a sort of legislature for the town. This past April, members of representative town meeting overwhelmingly approved the town’s new domestic partnership bylaw, including an amendment to the original proposal that recognizes polyamory.

The domestic partnership bylaw passed with 221 members voting in favor of it and 11 members voting against it. The polyamory amendment passed with 192 members voting for it and 37 members voting against it.

The amended bylaw in theory would allow people to register a domestic partnership with the town of Arlington if they meet the following criteria:


(1) They have made a commitment of mutual support and caring for each other their

domestic partners;

(2) They reside together and intend to do so indefinitely;

(3) They share basic living expenses;

(4) They are at least eighteen (18) years of age;

(5) They are competent to enter into a contract; and

(6) They are not married to anyone or related to each other by blood closer than would

bar marriage in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


The bylaw would allow members of a polyamorous domestic partnership to have visitation rights at town-operated health care facilities and town-operated correctional facilities. Additionally, a child’s parent or legal guardian would be allowed to give a domestic partner access to a child’s school records as well as access to the child, including school dismissal.

It also means that Arlington town employees could receive bereavement leave for their domestic partners. The town allows for up to five days of paid leave for the death of a spouse, child, father, mother, sister, brother, or grandparents. The current bereavement leave policy does not offer leave for the death of domestic partners.

If the Attorney General’s office approves the bylaw, Arlington would become the third Massachusetts community to officially recognize polyamorous relationships. Somerville became the first in June 2020, and Cambridge became the second in March 2021. Those were city ordinances, however, which are not subject to review by the Attorney General’s office. (Chapter 40, Section 32 of Massachusetts General Laws exempts city by-laws from review by the Attorney General’s office.)

In Arlington, Precinct 3 Town Meeting member Amos Meeks, who has two domestic partners, proposed the polyamory amendment to the domestic partnership bylaw this past spring.

Meeks wasn’t the first person in Arlington town politics to propose the change, however.  One selectman who said he was once involved in a three-way domestic relationship first raised the possibility of officially recognizing polyamorous relationships during a public meeting in early June 2020, as NewBostonPost reported at the time.


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