Cambridge Hoping To Expand Health Insurance Benefits For Polyamorous Relationships

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Cambridge city councilors want to offer a new benefit for city employees in polyamorous relationships:  health insurance.

The city council unanimously passed a policy order at its meeting on January 9, 2023 to expand health insurance benefits to those in polyamorous relationships.

City councilors Quinton Zondervan, Denise Simmons, and Sumbul Siddiqui, the city’s mayor, sponsored the policy order. They voted in favor of it, as did Burhan Azeem, Alanna Mallon, Marc McGovernor, Patricia Nolan, and Paul Toner.

Councilor Dennis Carlone was absent from the meeting but told NewBostonPost in an email message that he supports the measure.

“I don’t know if I can say anything profound on the subject,” Carlone wrote. “People have the right to choose who they love and live with. They are true partners and should be treated the same as what was considered traditional married couples”

Under the proposal, if a member of a polyamorous relationship works for the city and has employer-sponsored health insurance, that person’s partners would be eligible for those same health insurance benefits — if the Massachusetts legislature and Governor Maura Healey approve the proposed home rule petition.

Here is the petition, which the Cambridge city council approved on January 9:


An Act expanding the definition of Dependent for the purposes of municipal employee benefits as to the city of Cambridge

SECTION 1. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, in the City of Cambridge, for Group Insurance Commission coverage purposes as established by General Laws Chapter 32B, any domestic partner in a registered domestic partnership with an employee of the City of Cambridge, shall be a “dependent” and shall be entitled to participate in the election of coverages and benefits provided by the Group Insurance Commission to City of Cambridge employees.

SECTION 2. Any member of a registered domestic partnership with the City of Cambridge shall be considered a “spouse” with respect to all spousal rights established by the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

SECTION 3. Any surrogate bearing a child in surrogacy for a city employee, their spouse or domestic partner in a registered domestic partnership, shall be considered a dependent for 12 months from the start of the pregnancy.

SECTION 4. This act shall take effect upon passage.


The city lacks the authority to make the change by itself. It requires a state statute to enable the proposed local policy. In the 1999 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case Connors v. Boston, the court struck down an executive order issued by then-Boston Mayor Tom Menino that gave health insurance benefits to city employees in registered domestic partnerships.

At the time, same-sex civil law marriage was not legal in Massachusetts, and same-sex couples were the primary beneficiaries of domestic partnerships.

In that instance, however, the relationships were theoretically monogamous. Only three municipalities in the state currently offer domestic partnerships in relationships that involve more than two people:  Cambridge, Somerville, and Arlington.

In the wake of the city council vote January 9, a state representative and state senator who represent Cambridge in the Massachusetts legislature will likely file the home rule petition in their respective chambers. To take effect, such a bill would need majority support in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Massachusetts Senate and the assent of Governor Maura Healey, or a two-thirds supermajority in each chamber to override Healey if she vetoes the measure. Cambridge has three state representatives, all of whom are Democrats and live in the city:  Mike Connolly, Marjorie Decker, and David Rogers. It also has two state senators:  Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville).

So far, no one has filed the home rule petition in the legislature.

While the city council voted on the measure during the January 9 meeting, there was no discussion of the topic that night before it came up for a vote.

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.

None of the nine Cambridge city councilors other than Carlone could be reached for comment on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday this week. Nor could Connolly, Decker, Rogers, DiDomenico, or Jehlen.


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