6th May 2015

“Why polyamorous marriages are the next step to equality”

I love that polyamorous activists are finally coming out and making their arguments in public. The sudden wave of positive publicity for polyamory is a pleasant surprise.

In March I submitted the following question to Green Party leader Natalie Bennett for the Pink News Q&A:

“At present those in a ‘trio’ (a three-way relationship) are denied marriage equality, and as a result face a considerable amount of legal discrimination. As someone living with his two boyfriends in a stable long-term relationship, I would like to know what your stance is on polyamory rights. Is there room for Green support on group civil partnerships or marriages?”

Bennett’s response this weekend that she is ‘open’ to discussion on the topic has since made national news, with the BBC, Independent, Buzzfeed, Telegraph, and even the Daily Mail picking up on the story. It has been met by both sympathy and outrage: as I write this a Metro poll shows public support for polyamorous unions to be at 42%, the Mirror at 52%, whereas fundamentalist Christians have (predictably) announced it as a sign of the end times. Regardless of the response, it is the first time the prospect of legal polyamorous unions has been discussed by leading politicians and the mainstream press.

As a polyamorous activist and author, it’s an issue I’m very familiar with, and for me and my family, it’s one which affects many aspects of our lives. Our trio is happy and stable, but lacking basic legal protections the home we have built together could easily come under threat—unconventional families face discrimination in employment, services, and housing. If one of the men I love and have built my life with were to fall ill, I would have no right to visit him in hospital.

At the centre of the issue lies a fundamental inequality: monogamous relationships have legal rights and protections whilst nonmonogamous ones do not. Yet we have the opportunity for a straightforward solution: why not take the now-defunct concept of civil partnerships, and open them to polyamorous households? Each registered family would receive the same partnership rights as any other form of union, and be subject to the same obligations. Most importantly, it would provide legal recognition and protection to the increasing number of alternative households in Britain today.

For many this seems like a radical concept, and perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the arguments against it closely mirror those against same-sex relationships in general: that we’re unnatural, that our relationships are unstable and unhealthy […], even that our love will invoke the wrath of a furious God. Simply replace ‘same-sex’ with ‘polyamorous’, and the whole debate looks painfully familiar.

In fact, LGBT communities have a long history of polyamory—one dating all the way back to Lord Byron and the Shelleys, continuing through to Harvey Milk and the Radical Faeries. A 2006 study showed that 28% of lesbians, a third of bisexuals, and almost two thirds of gay men are open to nonmonogamous relationships. As any polyamorous bond will automatically involve at least two men or two women, all feature some form of same-sex relationship. Polyamorous families are queer families.

At the same time, the arguments in favour of marriage for same-sex couples also apply to trios. Parents should not face losing custody of their children because they’re in a nonmonogamous relationship. Families shouldn’t risk losing their home because inheritance rights favour ‘traditional’ couples. No-one should suffer being barred from their partner’s funeral because their love isn’t recognised.

All loving, adult relationships are valid. As has often been argued during the long struggle for marriage rights, none of us choose whom we fall in love with. Our only choice lies in whether we stand up to discrimination, or ignore it. Gay or straight, lesbian or bi, monogamous or polyamorous, all of us deserve to live and love equally to one another. All of us deserve recognition under the law.

Yes, this will be a battle, but we’ve battled before. Yes, it seems a long way away, but twenty years ago the prospect of two husbands or two wives legally wedding one another seemed equally remote. Each new generation grows more open-minded, tolerant, and accepting than the one before, and I believe that we are sympathetic and capable enough to provide the legal protections polyamorous families need.

Right now we have a historic opportunity to ensure that equality is for all of us. Love is love, regardless of how many share it. A family is a family, whether it has two members or five. In the end, monogamous or not, all LGBT people deserve equal rights—and if the past decades have proved nothing else, it’s that we are very good at fighting for them.

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They Would Marry Today If They Could

From Full Marriage Equality:

I am 29 years old. […] I am Native American/American Indian […]. […] I was adopted by my grandmother on my mother’s side, and her husband, at the time of my birth. My biological mother was 13 when she gave birth to me and was not ready to care for a child. Growing up, I was raised like an only child but had many siblings. I was homeschooled for a time in elementary school, but returned to public school shortly. I enjoyed time with my parents and my much older siblings who looked after me. I also had two “aunts” who were drag queens who took me shopping. I was encouraged to use my imagination, to embrace people with understanding, acceptance, and love; love people for who they are.

[…] I am in a romantic and sexual relationship with my […] genetic half-[brother]. We have the same mother. […] We did not grow up together. I have but one memory of us being in the same room together. We were not raised together because I was adopted and he was raised by his dad. Our biological mom was not able to raise either of us at the time. We were reunited at the end of 2006. I searched for him on MySpace, messaging every guy who had his name until I found him.

[…] When I first found him I did think “DAMN he is sexy” so it was instantaneous for me. I didn’t say anything because, well, how do you say that to your brother? I didn’t know it would turn out like this; it was gradual. We talked off and on for years, but this year we started talking every day, all day. We talked about everything, not as like a sister and brother talk, but as best friends or lovers talk.

It isn’t really clear who made the first move because we were both hinting to each other the whole time. Our relationship remained online for a while until we met in-person. When I saw him, I knew all I had been feeling was real. When I kissed him, it confirmed it even more. When we went to the hotel and made love for the first time it felt more right, more amazing than anything I ever experienced. After, I didn’t have the thought of “OH NO, I just had sex with my brother.” There was no feelings of it being weird or wrong. It just felt right, it felt pure, it felt meant to be.

When he first kissed me, I kinda attacked him. I wanted to be closer. I wanted more. Our first kiss was in the car in the airport parking lot and I crawled half way over the seat getting to him. […] Due to my past I never felt comfortable during sex, but with him, I was free, open. I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t scared. I wanted to feel more of him, and I wanted to give him all of me. I am a writer, so forgive me for my cheesiness, but the first time he kissed me, the first time we made love, the first time I looked into his eyes, and still today, the world goes black, spins, and there is nothing but us.

[…] I think I always knew it was possible and enjoyable because I watch TV, I read, so I had heard of things like this before, but never thought it would be possible for me to be with him. From the moment I saw him, saw his picture, I felt something inside me scream and beg for him to be mine. I didn’t think it was possible because I thought I would be rejected by him, but I am happy I was wrong. I never had feelings like this for other family members. I can say I have thought some of my family members, men and woman, boys and girls, were attractive, but I never thought of them, or felt for them, like I do for him. There is something inside me that is drawn to him on another level, something about him that pulls me to him.

[…] What we have now, I consider to be a marriage. I feel we have been together our entire lives but our anniversary is [not that long ago]. We are currently in the process of buying a house together, so we can live together. I see him as my lover, my best friend, my husband. I get a little defensive when people call him my brother because he is so much more than that to me, because I don’t want people to think my love for him is sisterly; it is more.

[…] Our biological mom has been supportive. We told her first, and we told her together. Most of the people who know have been nasty towards us. Mostly his ex-wife’s family and his friends who are friends with her. Other people who are friends with both of us have been supportive. We have little support and a lot trying to pick apart our relationship, our love, calling us “sick”, saying we need therapy. It is more negative than positive but we are working through it. We do act like a couple in public, when we are alone or are around supportive family, like our bio mom. Most of the time, it is just natural for us to act that way, holding hands and being loving. Everyone knows we are related, but I am sure when we move we will have friends who only know us as a couple. We have not taken any steps to keep our privacy because we are at a point now where we don’t care; we want our love shouted from the roof tops.

[…] Hiding our relationship is hard; we couldn’t even hide it from our biological mom. The way we look at each other, the way we talk, the way we act, it’s natural and obvious even when we try to hide it. We know sometimes we might have to hide it but even still, I don’t think we do a very good job. Hiding our relationship is not something I like doing because it makes me feel as though we are acting like we are ashamed, or we feel wrong, and we don’t.

[…] Just because you do not agree with the way we live our lives does not mean you should force your way of life, or your beliefs on us. You do not have to believe as we do, but you can love us, accept us, for who we are. If someone were to say we were preying on each other I would laugh because we are grown adults and only two years apart. I did not force him, he did not force me, and we gave each other the permission to back out at any time without repercussion.

[…] I can’t think of anything that would make this wrong. I feel that you cannot help who you love and it doesn’t matter who you love, you should be able to be with that person and be happy. […] I want to get married now. I am willing to put up with harassment, discrimination, and all the negatives. The only thing keeping us from being legally married is prosecution. […] We plan to move in together and live as a couple and have a wedding ceremony. We’ll raise our children together. My children love him so much already and are very accepting. […] This is a once in a lifetime love and I will do anything, go through anything, to keep it because it is worth it.

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