Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Polyamorous Marriage Is On The Horizon In Canada

It might be a distant horizon, but it's coming.

And I, for one, could not be happier about that.

Today, I found out  a Newfoundland court has found that three people can qualify legally as parents of a child.  The family in question is similar to mine in that it's an MFM vee -- that is, two men, uninvolved with each other, living with and loving a woman. 

The trio asked the court to declare all three of them parents, and the judge's ruling fills me with warm fuzzies:

“the child, A., has been born into what is believed to be a stable and loving family relationship which, although outside the traditional family model, provides a safe and nurturing environment…. I can find nothing to disparage that relationship from the best interests of the child’s point of view…. To deny this child the dual paternal parentage would not be in his best interests. It must be remembered that this is about the best interests of the child and not the best interest of the parents.”

People who are determined to denigrate polyamorous relationships get especially ornery when children are involved. There are two fundamental misunderstandings of polyamory at work here: one, that we're all about orgies and swinging from the chandeliers; two, that polyamorous partnerships are somehow inherently unstable.

The first accusation could not be more false, as I have repeatedly asserted. Polyamory is about love, not sex; yes, sex is a common ingredient in love, but...well, it's a common ingredient in monogamous relationships, isn't it? Do you have sex in front of your kids? Neither would we.

The second is also false. The stability of a relationship is not dependant on the relationship style but on the people in the relationship. This ought to be self-evident, but the number of times I have heard people question the arrangement here (which has been loving and stable for four years now) on the basis that "I know somebody who had an open relationship and it didn't end well.."

I know a BUNCH of completely monogamous marriages that didn't end well. Your point?

"But how do you explain the 'extra' adults"?

How do you explain that your son has two Mommies or your daughter two Daddies? And pray tell me what's scary about more than two loving parents in a child's life?

Make no mistake, this case sets a precedent that will lead inexorably to polyamorous marriage. Once you have recognized three parents, it's actually a very short step towards recognizing more than two spouses. NOTA BENE: I remain FIRMLY and UNEQUIVOCALLY against polygamy as it is commonly practiced, viz. one man with a group of usually much younger "wives" coerced into a harem arrangement where they are not allowed autonomy and agency. Nothing will move me on this--it's despicable.

But polyamory is not polygamy, as the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association has taken great pains to point out.

The biggest reason for that is that women, not men,  are the catalyst and foundation of polyamory. Two women -- one of whom I actually corresponded with a quarter century ago -- coined the term. There is a prevailing attitude in the community that rebels against anything even mildly suggesting 'ownership'. Women enter into polyamorous relationships of their own accord and under their own agency, treating their partners with respect and compassion and being treated so in return...or they walk.

In short: we're not a cult.

Does the prospect of polyamorous marriage affect me personally?

Nope. I do not.

In this I would like to draw a parallel to same-sex marriage. There are many LGBTQ+ people who have less than zero interest in marriage as an institution. The same goes for polyamorous people--many seem to see marriage as pointless.

I don't, needless to say, or I wouldn't have gotten married or stayed that way. Marriage, to me, is a deeply personal statement of love and commitment; a public recognition of same; an acknowledgement between you and your partner and any deity or deities that may apply that this relationship is special. That's all it is. But isn't that a lot?

Many people in this community practice what is called "solopoly". This means they refrain either entirely or to a great degree from two sorts of entanglement: domestic and financial. They usually live alone (and where they don't, the arrangement is more 'housemate' than 'spouse'; they're beholden to no one but themselves when it comes to spending money...and many, even most. of them are women like this one.

It's hard for people to fathom this -- it looks like a woman playing around. Hell, many do--as is their right if it's been negotiated ethically. But just as sexual exclusivity is not necessary for commitment, neither are joint bank accounts and a shared bathroom. If you don't believe me, consider the number of long distance monogamous relationships you have heard about and perhaps experienced. Or consider your friends, with whom you do not live or share finances but to whom you are undeniably committed.

So solopoly is a thing, and my partner Kathy identifies as such. Therefore, by definition, marriage is off the table for her.


However, there are many people who practice a different form of polyamory. There are triads and quads of all genders and sexualities, whether open or closed. The closed ones look just like monogamy with more people. The open ones have countless variations. Some of the people in these arrangements dearly want the opportunity to formalize them. There are also women who would like to marry both/all of their partners, and yes, men who would like to do the same. PROVIDED THE RELATIONSHIPS ARE FULLY CONSENSUAL, WITHOUT COERCION, I am all in favour of the opportunity. Again, it's like same-sex marriage. Only a fraction of gay people choose to marry. But they have the right to that choice.

Soon polyamorous people will too. And hooray for that.

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