Out-Of-Towners Can Get Polyamorous Relationship Recognized In Two Massachusetts Cities

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2022/04/21/out-of-towners-can-get-polyamorous-relationship-recognized-in-two-massachusetts-cities/

If you want government recognition of your polyamorous relationship, then come to Massachusetts.

Employees of city clerk’s offices for Somerville and Cambridge told a NewBostonPost reporter by telephone last week that a person does not have to live there to obtain domestic partnership recognition. Somerville and Cambridge recognize domestic partnerships for more than two people — which are polyamorous relationships.

So that means that if people live outside of these two north-of-Boston cities, those people can have their polyamorous relationship recognized by the local government.

One other municipally in Massachusetts recognizes polyamorous relationships:  the town of Arlington. But Arlington has a residency requirement, the town clerk told NewBostonPost this week.

In both communities, domestic partnership recognition offers people a few benefits. One is visitation rights at municipal-operated health care and correctional facilities. It also allows for a child’s parent(s) or legal guardian(s) to give their domestic partners access to a child’s school records as well as access to the child, including school dismissal.

Somerville became the first Bay State municipality to officially recognize polymaorous relationships in July 2020. Cambridge became the second in March 2021. And in April 2021, Arlington became the third. However, it wasn’t until December 2021 that Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey’s office’s Municipal Law Unit approved Arlington’s bylaw.

“Because the by-law’s limited scope does not conflict with the Constitution or laws of the Commonwealth, we approve it as we are required to do under the Attorney General’s scope of review of town by-laws,” the ruling from the Municipal Law Unit of the Attorney General’s office reads.

The ordinances approved by the Somerville and Cambridge city councils were not subject to review by the Attorney General’s office in Massachusetts. Chapter 40, Section 32 of Massachusetts General Laws exempts city by-laws from review by the Attorney General’s office. City ordinances can be challenged in court. 

One reason why Arlington’s polyamory bylaw was approved by the Municipal Law Unit is that it didn’t conflict with the state’s ban on polygamy.

The state’s anti-polygamy law says the following:


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.


Under these domestic partnership contracts, people are not considered married. Unlike a polygamous relationship, which typically involves a man having multiple wives, including situations where one or more of the supposed wives is unaware of the other women, a polyamorous relationship doesn’t involve marriage and has the consent of everyone involved. Polyamorous relationships can include heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual relationships.

The city clerks’ office for Somerville and Cambridge could not be reached for a comment for attribution on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday this week.


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