Somerville Makes Polyamory A Protected Class In Hiring and Policing

Printed from:

Being in a polyamorous relationship now puts people in a protected class in Somerville, Massachusetts.

The Somerville city council recently approved three ordinances to make it happen. City councilors Willie Burnley Jr. and J.T. Scott sponsored the three ordinances, which passed 11-0 during a meeting Thursday, March 23. Mayor Katjana Ballantyne signed the three measures on Thursday, March 30.

The city council unanimously passed ordinances making it illegal for the city to discriminate against people in policing and employment based on their relationship status.

Before it did, the city council passed an ordinance adding two definitions to the city’s “Definitions and rules of construction.” It added definitions for “relationship status” and “intimate personal relationship” to Section 1-4 of the city code.

For these purposes, here is how the city defined “relationship status”:

Relationship status. The words “relationship status” mean the actual or perceived involvement or uninvolvement of an individual in an intimate personal relationship or relationships. It includes an individual’s actual or perceived affinity, or lack thereof, for any given type of intimate personal relationship, regardless of  whether the individual is currently in any intimate personal relationship(s).

And here is how it defined “intimate personal relationship”:

Intimate personal relationship. The words “intimate personal relationship” shall include any interpersonal relationship between two or more adult individuals that involves romantic, physical, or emotional intimacy. This includes multi-partner/multi-parent families and relationships, step families, multi-generational households, and consensual sexual relationships, including relationships involving consensual non-monogamy.


Once the city council passed that ordinance, it made two changes.

It passed an ordinance amending Section 10-102 of the city’s code titled “Prohibition of biased based policing and racial profiling.” Two words were added to the definition of “biased based policing”:  “relationship status.”

Here is the definition of the term now, according to Somerville’s city code:

Biased based policing. The selection of an individual(s) for law enforcement action or differential treatment of an individual (s) in the performance of police services based on or influenced by a perceived trait common to a group. This includes, but is not limited to, race, ethnic background, skin color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, age, cultural group, relationship status, or any other identifiable group.


The council also unanimously passed an ordinance making “relationship status” and “sexual orientation” protected classes when it comes to hiring city personnel, updating Section 2-326 of the city code. 

Here is how the amended section looks with the new language added:

It is the purpose of this article to establish a comprehensive personnel program in the city. The system of personnel administration established herein shall be consistent with the following merit principles: 

(1) Selection and advancement shall be made on the basis of ability, knowledge, and skills; 

(2) Compensation shall be established on an equitable basis; 

(3) Training and development opportunities shall be provided as needed to assure high-quality  performance by all employees; 

(4) Retention of employees shall be on the basis of their performance. A reasonable effort shall be made to assist employees in improving work performance; and if, following such effort, inadequate performance cannot be corrected, separation shall occur; 

(5) Fair treatment of applicants and employees shall occur in all aspects of personnel administration without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, political affiliation, age, relationship status, sexual orientation, or handicap and with proper regard for their privacy and constitutional rights. 


Somerville city councilor Willie Burnley Jr. touted the changes. He said they make the city a more accepting place.

“As a polyamorous person, I’m grateful to live in a city that embraces rather than punishes people based on their family or relationship structure,” Burnley Jr. said in a press release. “These protections ensure that our neighbors know that they live in a community where they can be who they are freely and love whom they love openly without fear of government interference.”

During the meeting March 23, Scott said that the city council is committed to giving protection to polyamorous people because they are a part of the community.

“Here in Somerville, everybody knows somebody,” Scott said during the meeting. “Everybody around this horseshoe knew somebody who had polyamorous family. So it’s those connections and how they evolve all the time, that’s what’s made it easy. We all live in these interconnected networks.”

Somerville is one of three municipalities in Massachusetts that formally recognize polyamorous relationships.

While Somerville was the first to do so in July 2020, Cambridge followed in March 2021, and Arlington did in May 2021.

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 members of the Somerville city council could be reached for comment on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. Nor could the mayor.


New to NewBostonPost?  Conservative media is hard to find in Massachusetts.  But you’ve found it.  Now dip your toe in the water for two bucks — $2 for two months.  And join the real revolution.