Maura Healey’s Office Approves Arlington’s Polyamorous Relationships Benefits Expansion

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Polyamorous relationships are now eligible for more benefits in the town of Arlington, Massachusetts.

That’s because Article 11 passed at Arlington Town Meeting in May, granting additional employee benefits to registered domestic partnerships of town employees. Those benefits include bereavement leave, sick leave, and parental leave, among others. The town also dropped its requirements that members of a domestic partnership live together and share basic living expenses, as well as a requirement that no one in a domestic partnership is married to one another.

The Municipal Law Unit in Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey’s office approved the bylaw change on December 21, 2022, a spokesman for the office told NewBostonPost in an email message.

“Under Article 11, inserted in the warrant at the request of the Town’s LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission, the Town voted to amend its existing Domestic Partnerships by-law (Title 1, Article 23) to include additional text regarding the addition or withdrawal of domestic partners, the addition or removal of dependents, and the grant of certain employment benefits to town employees in domestic partnerships,” the Municipal Law Unit wrote in a letter to Arlington Town Clerk Juliana Brazile. “Except for the text granting employment benefits to town employees, which we do not act on because it is a personnel by-law not subject to Attorney General review and approval, we approve the amendments.”

Healey is the outgoing attorney general of Massachusetts. She is set to become governor of the state on Thursday, January 5, 2023.

The polyamory article approved by her office’s Municipal Law Unit passed 162-68 at Arlington Town Meeting on Monday, May 2, 2022.

The town of Arlington, which has about 47,000 people and is about 6 miles northwest of Boston, has a Representative Town Meeting form of government, with 252 elected members acting as a kind of legislature for the town. State law requires that bylaws that Town Meeting approves do not take effect until getting approval from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, to make sure they comport with state law.

At the time of Arlington’s polyamory vote in May 2022, supporters of the measure argued that the proposed bylaw would give polyamorous relationships equal rights under the law, which they described as a good thing.

Opponents primarily rooted their criticism in what some say is a loophole in the proposed rule — that someone could put many people down as being in their polyamorous relationship and abuse the leave benefits.

Precinct 19 Town Meeting member Susan Ryan-Vollmar introduced the polyamory-inclusive domestic benefits measure and explained why she felt it is necessary.

“It makes no sense to impose greater eligibility requirements on people seeking to register their domestic partnership than those seeking a license to marry,” Ryan-Vollmar said.

“My wife and I met in college when we were 18,” she later added, referring to a civil-law same-sex marriage. “We became parents after we had been together for 20 years. I could speak for days describing the insults and injuries, which include denials of hospital visitation that we endured throughout the horrible time when our relationship had no legal protection.”

Precinct 14 Town Meeting member Christopher Moore led the opposition to the provision — but not because he opposes polyamorous relationships. Rather, he said he thinks the measure could lead to benefits abuse. He filed an unsuccessful amendment to the provision to keep the requirements that people in these relationships live together and share basic living expenses. His amendment failed, 59-171.

“I think what we’re talking about here is not rights,” Moore said. “We don’t have any power over anybody’s family or anybody’s relationship. We can’t tell them what to do. What we are talking about is providing benefits in law and if those benefits should be limited and how.

“The main motion would allow for partnerships of unlimited size, consisting of any number of married or unmarried people, living separately or together and even people who are members of other domestic partnerships or marriages or people who live in other states,” he said. “It’s very broad with no real limits of how large these partnerships or partnership networks could be. That leads the proposal to easy abuse.”

Amos Meeks, a Precinct 3 Town Meeting member, claimed that Moore’s concerns are baseless.

He noted that town employees are only entitled to a certain amount of paid leave each year and that this measure would not expand their paid leave benefits. 

“To oppose the entire article on the grounds of an unsupported speculative situation seems like fear-mongering to me,” Meeks said.

Allan Totsi, a Precinct 17 Town Meeting member, who also opposed expanding the town’s domestic benefits, argued that the provision could have indirect costs — and lead to more expensive changes in later years.

“This is not a huge cost, but there will be a cost,” Totsi said of granting more unpaid leave to people in polyamorous relationships. “If somebody is not there, the town has to provide somebody else to do the work — often at overtime, especially in public safety.”

“Next year, if it can be done legally, I guarantee that health insurance will be next and that will be a huge cost,” he added.

Polyamory is not the same as polygamy.

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 typically does not involve marriage and has the consent of everyone involved. Polyamorous relationships can include heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual relationships.

Arlington is one of three municipalities in Massachusetts that formally recognize polyamorous relationships. The others are the neighboring cities of Somerville and Cambridge. 


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