• Laura Boyle

Somerville, MA Expands Domestic Partnership

It's been reported everywhere from Wickedlocal to The New York Times, and I don't think I can turn on any form of social media without seeing some mention of it from polyamorous friends, whether it's sharing an article, excitement about it, or misinformation related to it.


So what does it mean for polyamorous people?


Immediately, a little. Polyamorous people who live in Somerville who haven't filed domestic partnership paperwork and want the medical benefits that are the primary benefit of a domestic partnership can have them. (Both access to medical insurance for them and their kids through their partners, if the partner's employer agrees, and hospital visit access with partners.) The other big benefit is being allowed to buy property together in that town. If they haven't already made an LLC to deal with the medical insurance and property ownership issues and it doesn't change insurance coverage costs for kids and they have a good understanding with their medical providers about their partners, they might not need it. If some of them are married, they might be giving up more rights by splitting up a marriage so they can get the domestic partnership rights with other partners - domestic partnerships don't include inheritance rights, and one jurisdiction expanding your domestic partnership rights keeps where you can buy property and move pretty small.


However...





Potentially, a lot. First, this city ordinance expanding domestic partnership rights from two people to more than two; but ALSO being one of the first in Massachusetts to not require you all cohabit constantly without very very specific excuses for your separation (family illness where you're a caretaker, for example), means that it has the possibility to be a useful model for other towns to set up test cases for polycules that are in one home or split across two households. Building up enough test cases that clearly don't do any social ill, rip the fabric of society, or do that ever present pearl-clutching false-flag fear, "harm the children," is how we get to a future where people think it's good to do test cases of more than two people marriages (even if they call them civil unions). It's how we bottom up change hearts and minds, and before we get there we'll GET OUR ACTUAL GOOD TV SHOW.


(Total Aside: Guys, I really want to be able to have someone recognize a commitment ceremony I do some day, but if I don't live to see that and rub my dad's face in telling my 26 year old self that "maybe in 25 years we'll feel like the parents of gay ..." etc etc, I 100% am required to see our public progress to the good TV show phase.)


But, back to the point, domestic partnerships are focused on cohabiting and you probably won't actually be able to get insurance benefits if you don't all cohabit, if your employer provides a domestic partner plan anyway, but the municipality not requiring it means Somerville polyamorists can have paperwork that they can use to have all their partners in the hospital with them.


So, to sum up. I'm hopeful about this. It's a good test case in a state that won't strike it out down and might have enough other municipalities pick it up that the state has to debate it and once they have to do that once, you get municipalities in other states making themselves test cases of this first phase in solidarity with the state trying to test case it. That itself is looking forward a couple years, probably. But it's a very nice thing to look forward to.

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