B.C. Attorney General: Polyamorous Families are Illegal Too

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 29, 2011 — 89 Comments

The always-informative Religion Clause blog points to a Vancouver Sun article about closing arguments in the B.C. Supreme Court case concerning Canada’s law banning the practice of polygamy. I’ve taken an active interest in this case because Pagan families and clergy in Canada had been filing affidavits in support of decriminalizing the law under the assumption that it affects polyamorous families in addition to the stereotypical fundamentalist Mormon groups. Indeed, the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association has sought clarification for some time as to whether governmental defenders of the anti-polygamy statutes  think polyamory falls under their definition of polygamy.

“The CPAA wants to know if polyamorists will be caught under Section 293 should it be determined that the section is constitutional. CPAA lawyer John Ince told Bauman the attorneys general for Canada and BC have not delineated what their thinking is on the polyamorists.”

However, the Canadian and B.C. attorneys general have been tight-lipped on the subject, until now. In his closing remarks, Craig Jones, lead attorney for the B.C. Attorney General’s office, made very clear that polyamorous families would be treated like polygamous families in the eyes of the law.

When multi-partner, conjugal relationships are like “duplicative marriages,” Jones said they are criminal regardless of whether the individuals are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. Although he said ‘duplicative marriage’ need not be “exhaustively defined in advance,” Jones said all conjugal relationships involving more than two people are criminal if they go beyond “mere cohabitation” and have some form of imposed consequences related to entering or remaining in the relationship.”

So now we know the true stakes in this decriminalization effort, and very likely why they kept this viewpoint under wraps until the very end. They aren’t simply seeking to crack down on abusive forms of polygamy, they see all “duplicative marriages” as criminal and potentially open for prosecution. Never mind that polyamory isn’t the same as polygamy, isn’t patriarchal, isn’t intergenerationally normalized, and isn’t restricted by gender pairing or sexual orientation.

“This law is not just about people living in Bountiful, British Columbia as the media and the Attorneys General would have us all believe.  This law impacts many many people who have loving healthy families and live right next door to us.  This law would break up families who are doing no wrong and just dare to love and build solid healthy empowering relationships in a different manner than perhaps you do.  This law impacts our rights and paints us with a wide brush that is both terribly unfair and terribly inaccurate.”Dear Polly Amorie

If you think that since you’re not Mormon, you’d never get prosecuted under the polygamy law, think again. Canada has had no seeming qualms charging people with antiquated laws against “pretending” to practice witchcraft, so tacking on a polygamy charge when you’re already under arrest for something else isn’t out of the question. The failure to end criminalization of polygamy could have far-reaching impacts on Canadian Pagan poly families and Pagan clergy willing to perform multiple-partner ceremonies. However, even if this current effort at decriminalization fails, I think the defense made a tactical error by lumping all “duplicative marriages” together. This may create more outrage, new activists, and new trials now that the scope of the law is interpreted as expanding beyond a fundamentalist Mormon context.

Closing arguments continue through this week. You can see live-streaming of the trial, here. Hundreds of transcripts and documents from the trial are available online. I’ll update you once I have more.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Sage

    Argh, and I thought the Canadians were 'enlightened" because they have made same sex marriage legal. Dang. I still don't see why it's the government's business with whom and with how many people I have concurrent intimate relationships. Grrr…

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Canada legalizing same-sex marriage is quite consistent with this ruling. It reflects such a commitment to couples as the way to form a household that it is willing to let BGLT couples into the formal arrangement.

      Polyamory has always been a frontier beyond the BGLT frontier, north or south of the border.

  • Star Foster

    Mere cohabitation has consequences for entering and leaving: rent, utilities, furniture, food, privacy, social flexibility, scheduling, etc…

    I doubt I've owned a pot or pan or broom all of my own in years, and i just have platonic roommates.

    • Crystal7431

      Yeah, what does that even mean, "imposed consequences"? That's a bit broad and way too vague.

  • Lillitu Shahar Kunning

    Groan. This is outrageous and a stupid waste of government resources. To regulate a practice that exploits young women and takes away their life choices I can understand, but this?

  • Don

    It's really just a logical consequence of the modern state. Its already involved in so many aspects of our lives anyway. I can't name a sphere of my life the state doesn't have a hand in, can you?

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    The state used to be entangled with the church (actually, it still is in Canada) and there are a lot of laws on the books that reflect a former perspective that the authorities were concerned with our souls as well as our actions. The idea that the proper concern of government is control of destructive behavior and resolution of individual conflicts is more recent. Interestingly, the very conservative current US Supreme Court has voided some of that holdover stuff as it relates to sexual conduct in private. Formation of a household by marriage is, however, still regarded as a legitimate state function and some of these old-school attitudes are, alas, embedded in the rules.

  • Daniel

    Gay marriage is legal, and yet polyamorous families are illegal? Since when should the state define the legality of a family structure as long as there is no abuse? Consenting adults, and their love between one another, are just as viable family units as heterosexual and GLBT ones are. Sweet Brigit, this has to stop. Leave and let be already!

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      The inner-ring suburb I used to live in felt perfectly authorized in the 1970s to dictate the compositon of households. I was part of a political mini-movement to legalize households of the unrelated. It will take targeted political effort to make such changes.

      • Daniel

        Hopefully those changes come in good time.

  • Krystal H.

    As a Canadian, I feel the need to quote the late, former Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau:

    "The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation."

    • Thriceraven

      I wish I could vote for the shade of Trudeau in the upcoming federal election… It seems better than the other options we've got.

      • Ruadh

        As a Quebecer, I'll say "no-thanks" but yea, I really don't get how polygamy (or polyamory or whatever you want to call it) should be illegal. Abusive relations should be illegal, no matter if you are 2 or 26 with two dogs…

  • http://www.occultcorpus.com Caliban

    Homosexuals have been working steadily toward acceptance since the 1950s, and even much earlier in Europe. Ground has been gained gradually. Polyamory still seems a foreign concept for most raised in a culture that is monogamy-normative. The key to acceptance is advocacy and education, and will take decades, not years. Is the Church of All Worlds established legally as a religious denomination in Canada? That may be an easier goal to accomplish quickly, and provide some support in terms of ethical and theological support for polyamorous families.

  • http://theartofapril-anna.blogspot.com April-Anna

    This is rediculous… Don't we have more pressing concerns to take care of then focusing on people's personal, supposedly private relationship choices, that is their right to make? Who cares if people have more then one partner, as long as it's consenting, and not abusive/harmful to the inviduals involved. Any government who thinks something like this is any of their concern has it's head up it's ass. This is a waste of energy, time, resources and is insulting to the intelligence of those who would choose to practice poly in any form. I am in a monogomous relationship but not because it's the status quo but because I choose to experience this with my partner, because it feels right. But I am in full support of the rights of those who would choose to be poly, just as I think gay & lesbian partnerships should be allowed to legally get married. This is so absurd!

  • http://twitter.com/Datan0de @Datan0de

    Just a quick side observation from someone further south. I'm sure that the people commenting here are not a representative cross section of Canadians, but with the possible exception of Fire's comment the thread here represents your country very well. At least in the major news sites centered around the US, the discussion threads all too often appear to be a race to see who can post the most ignorant or offensive comments. Even in the most mundane news stories the suggestion to "DRTC" (Don't Read The Comments) is good advice. Not so here. I'm delighted to see that there are, in fact, places where rational, intelligent, progressive comments are the norm.

    It's also worth noting that while the B.C. Attorney General is clearly in the wrong, at least Canada is having the discussion in the first place! I'm not arguing in favor of complacency, but give yourselves a little credit. Down here in the States straightforward issues like gay marriage are still considered radical by a huge chunk of the population, and the idea of healthy polyamorous relationships isn't even on the radar of most. There's a LOT of work still to be done in both countries, but I applaud Canada for being at the front of the wave of social progress.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Vanessa-Crosby/506500635 Vanessa Crosby

    No country is perfect, Canada included. But the glorious thing about Canada is that as a country we're willing to look at ways to move forward, to examine and discuss subjects that in other nations are taboo. No, the case for the legalization of poly relationships isn't going well right now, but it's laying important ground work! That this is happening at all right now is a positive sign, and rather than denouncing the province of British Columbia and all of Canada, what we need to focus on now is the next stage of the fight. We've made some noise, brought some big attention to the issues at hand. Now we work on educating the public about what poly families are and what they aren't, and why it's wrong to discriminate against them in the way that this country's laws have traditionally done so.

    Canadians are a pretty open minded and accepting people on most things, in my experience. It just takes time for them to come to grips and a better understanding of ideas and practices that are outside the normative structure in which they've been raised. I love my country. I'm deeply ashamed that it still holds on to antiquated laws against "fraudulent" witchcraft and what defines a family, but my country is willing to change and adapt. It just takes time, and a lot of it to combat misinformation, and there's a lot of it out there about poly family settings. Let's keep positive and working toward change.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyra.peacock Kyara Peacock

    Well, this doesn't surprise me in the least. I wonder when our government will wake up and consider that polygamy can open up a whole new tax bracket for such families to fall under? Don't they realize the future robbery…oops I mean revenue they can generate?

    you can also have specialized insurance packages if a polygamous or polyamorous family situation is involved. If special considerations can be made for same-sex or even co-habitation partners, why not poly families?

    The government will always try to make illegal that which it does not understand.

  • Stephen A.

    Wow, the sense of self-delusion and PC thinking here is astronomical. I wondered, reading these comments, if anyone would dare speak out the other way, for fear of being attacked. Let's try.

    Anyone who thinks living together in a polygamist marriage and living together in "poly" non-marriage is any different is definitely delusional. The difference seems minimal to the point of insignificance. And if society has the right to micro-manage all other things – drinking water quality, ensuring clean air, monitoring medicine and food quality, etc. (and it's good that they do, BTW) – it has every right to ensure that women (or men!) are not being abused in these kinds of relationships and of course, to disallow them if they are not in society's best interest.

    I knew someone in one of these 'things' and it was emotionally devastating and by no means "consensual" (regardless of what he claimed at the time) when he saw his girlfriend sleep around. This is an emotionally crippling practice, to which anyone who has had a partner cheated on them can testify, and frankly, it's just the one I expect pagans to embrace as a "cause." This is why so many are still afraid to name themselves as such publicly. It gives people the idea that being pagan is simply a childish, libertine rejection of all rules.

    • Atreic

      I saw someone in a monogamous marriage once that was emotionally devastating and emotionally crippling. Do you think we should legislate against monogomous marriage too?

      • Stephen A.

        "I saw someone in a monogamous marriage once." Cute. Yeah, marriage sucks. Got it.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Mockery isn't an argument, Stephen.

          • Stephen A.

            Neither was sarcasm.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Atreic was not being sarcastic. He was telling you something. Calling it sarcasm is another one of your defenses against learning anything new.

          • Stephen A.

            Come up for your own term for it then. "Do you think we should legislate against monogomous marriage too?" is a ridiculous and silly statement, since they obviously ARE regulated and recognized.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            That is not sarcasm but reduction ad absurdum, a rebuttal that shows your position is flawed by demonstrating that, pressed to the limit, it produces absurd results. It's been a valid form of argument for hundreds of years.

        • Grimmorrigan

          how is that any different that your " I saw someone once in a poly relationship once" argument? Your anger at the reversal shows the weakness of your initial argument.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Stephen, to begin a comment with an accusation of "PC thinking" is to shut the discussion down before it starts. "PC" is a lazy, ignorant, one-size-fits-all criticism that says nothing and can be neither validated or disproved. It's informative of the person who uses it, not what s/he labels.

      The difference between traditional polygamy and modern polyandry is that the latter is an agreement among equals and the former is patriarchal and involves such practices as elderly husbands sealing alliances by adding one another's daughters to their stable of wives. The government has warrant to prevent that. It has not such warrant to ban free associations freely arrived at.

      • Stephen A.

        PC thinking shuts down all discussion. It's not lazy, it's activist and destructive. And it's a reflective starting-point for many, because they fail to speak out against the mob (or are terrified to do so.) It needs to be called out when we see it.

        "Free associations freely arrived at" sounds so beautiful, but like other libertine statements, hides ugly emotional scars and trauma that underlies it. Humans can barely handle taking on ONE partner and managing those relationships effectively.

        Frankly, more evidence exists for plural marriages being stable than for "shifting partner" arrangements that have no history of working, and a LOT of history of emotional pain and social destruction.

        • Grimmorrigan

          Specifics. Simply saying "poly is bad" is not an argument. You are not willing to have discussion you are looking for a venue to express your opinion. Fine, start a blog, but don't act like your arguments are somehow above reproach. You've already been shown how a simple reversal of subject can undermine your simplistic attack. If you want to speak of evidence bring some. Footnotes or it didn't happen.

        • sarenth

          Your sweeping generalities about what people can handle may be in your mind or experience, and the reality for the general population may be quite different.

          If we want to get down to it, how many "free associations" that you're mocking here are arrived at in monogamous, heteronormative relationships?

          How many scars are hidden in the "beautiful sounding" "Till death do you part?" People in monogamous relationships can be trapped in relationships because they emotionally are terrorized, or conditioned, such as with the words "No one else will love you" or "No one else wants you?" Yet despite centuries of abuse experienced at the hands of those who are in monogamous marriages, the State still seems to give them the seal of approval.

          If you're going to talk history and sit here and say how "more evidence exists" then please supply it. Just because something has not been studied as much as another does not mean it is more or less effective than something that has.

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

          Stephen A.: "PC thinking shuts down all discussion."

          So does melodramatic victim-playing.

          • Stephen A.

            Victim-playing is a popular game here, just like trying to shut down dissent with pithy comments everyone can then feel good about by "liking" them. Charming. It's harmless. Have fun.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Nobody is shutting down dissent on this board. You are making statements and some of us are dissenting from them.

          • Stephen A.

            Well, it's more like piling on, mindlessly, and without actually addressing the points. But yeah, okay.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            On the contrary, everyone so far (I will modestly except myself) has been addressing your points head-on. You are the one who has failed to address everyone else's points, with evasions like "PC" and "Humans have always had rule."

          • Stephen A.

            Human societies always HAVE had rules, and (sorry libertarians) always will. When the West was pagan (and one day will be again, hopefully) there were rules, and of course exceptions to those rules. Adultery-by-consent has never been one of those exceptions, though clearly if people choose to engage in it, it will occur and is (on a practical level) no business of anyone who isn't IN that relationship with them.

            When people ask for public input, or acceptance, or laws protecting and codifying it, then it becomes legitimate and appropriate to comment. And sorry if it hurts feelings if everyone doesn't join in and go "Yay! Open relationships ROCK!" because, realistically, they don't work for most people, and *seem* hurtful to the human psyche, based on more than the few anecdotes posted here.

            And I would think a system of revolving partners would be hard to codify into ANY law, but again, that's a side issue, though a practical one.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Your comments are improving, Stephen. This one is fairly shoddy but miles ahead of what you've been doing.

            You don't validate a point by repreating and expanding upon it, especially when someone has critiqued it and you don't answer the criticism. But at least you made yourself more articulate about human rules.

            Rather than "Open relationships rock" people here are (mostly) saying "Tolerance rocks," something quite different. You'll notice only a minority weigh in with "I'm polyamorous and…" The rest of us are supporting their right to experiment with intimate formats without — and here's the main point — LEGAL impediments.

            A system of resolving partners is the most extreme form of polyamory but you underestimate the ingenuity of lawyers if you think it cannot be codified. Believe it or not, other people have thought of this, and not in a mindlessly cheerleading mode.

          • http://twitter.com/Datan0de @Datan0de

            Interesting how you conflate "laws protecting and codifying" with "wanting to not be thrown in jail for living with the people we love". Being allowed to simply live our lives is not asking for any special treatment.

            I do agree with you that polyamory isn't for most people. How fortunate then that nobody is claiming that it is. Nor is anyone trying to force polyamory onto anyone. If it doesn't work for you then don't do it. But the fact that it doesn't work for you should not be justification for imprisoning people for whom it does work.

            As for "a system of revolving partners", I don't know what you're referring to, but it isn't polyamory. Polyamory does not imply promiscuity, lack of commitment, or lack of emotional investment. What you're talking about sounds like serial monogamy to me.

            If you're going to comment on a topic, may I suggest learning at least the basics of the topic before doing so? In this case, a good place to start would be here: http://www.xeromag.com/fvpoly

            It addresses most of your misconceptions. If you decide that you still want to rail against polyamory, you can then at least do so with informed arguments.

          • Stephen A.

            I conflated no such thing. Stop making up facts.

            If people wish to have multiple partners, or short-term relationships, or "open relationships" it is no concern of ours.

            And I'll bloody well rail against whatever I please, thank you.

          • http://twitter.com/Datan0de @Datan0de

            I made up no facts. If you weren't conflating the two, then what exactly were you referring to when you said "When people ask for public input, or acceptance, or laws protecting and codifying it"? The article was, in fact, about decriminalizing polyamorous relationships. If you were talking about something else then you failed to make that clear.

            "If people wish to have multiple partners, or short-term relationships, or "open relationships" it is no concern of ours."
            Yes, precisely.

            "And I'll bloody well rail against whatever I please, thank you."
            I never suggested otherwise. What I did suggest, however, is that you understand the topic first, and pointed you to a one-stop resource that would quickly bring you up to speed on the subject at hand. It was a genuine attempt to be helpful. If you choose to respond with dismissive comments that's your prerogative, but at least I tried to help.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          It's your *use* of "PC" as a label that's lazy. It discloses nothing but your opinion or, rather, your prejudices.

          • Stephen A.

            Very PC of you to make that accusation.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Are you trying to prove my point?

            You introduced "PC thinking" into this discussion. Here's a challenge: Define it, please.

          • Stephen A.

            Seriously? It's been fun chatting, but if you're that out of the loop….

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Stephen, I've heard a dozen definitions of PC including from those who used the term supportively. So, I daresay, has everyone else on this board, with the possible exception of yourself.

            If you find yourself unable to define a term you use so frequently, allow me to try to guess from context. Do you mean mindlessly cheerleading any idea that can be classified as [Something] Liberation? Do you mean carefully choosing language that can give no offense to any racial, religious, gender-oriented or other human category as a category?

            If neither, what *is* the definition that animates your use of the term?

            As I said, a challenge, one you have yet to meet.

    • Star Foster

      And yet, one of the happiest, most supportive and nurturing families I know are poly, and the children are smart, happy and socially well-adjusted.

      • Stephen A.

        I have no doubt of that. Everyone has their own anecdotal "my best friend is…. " stories.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Stephen, if you ignore all the anecdotes you're arguing in a vacuum of facts.

    • Thriceraven

      Wow… where to begin.

      Poly relationships can be hurtful and destructive and hide horrible scars. So can monogamous ones. But neither needs to.

      I am a poly woman. I do not 'sleep around.' (Not that there is anything wrong with that, as long as all involved are happy and consenting.) I have been in a stable poly family for 8 years. We live together, share finances and are raising three fabulous kids. I have two partners, one of which has one other partner while the other has two. I have been with one of my partners for 16 years and we are legally married. I was a happy monogamous woman, and when the opportunity arose and we embarked on this life adventure we did so slowly, with lots of care for one another. Our relationship is stronger than it ever was. Our poly household has far outlasted the average monogamous marriage and is working very well. We attempt to make all major decisions by consensus and when there are issues, we sit around our giant dining room table and hash it out.

      Is it perfect? No. Has jealousy been an issue to be dealt with? Absolutely. But when things come up, we talk them out, just like any monogamous couple would do. It's definitely complicated, but it's working very well. Our children are happy and healthy, and the combined finances allow one of us to be a stay-at-home parent and household manager.

      I'm sorry your friend was being exploited. But if you think there is no functional difference between polygamy as practiced by fundamentalist Mormons and the like and polyamory as practiced by my family and those like us, you are sadly mistaken. We work very hard and very consciously to avoid power imbalances and to make sure everyone's voice and opinion has been heard and understood. We're not perfect, of course, but we are very aware of these issues and talk openly about them often.

      What we need are not laws against consensual poly relationships, but societal skills and tools that allow people to navigate relationships with more competence so that people who find themselves in abusive or coercive situations can realize it and get themselves out of them.

      • Stephen A.

        Wow, where to begin, indeed.

        The core of the concept is (or may not be in your case, which is great) the ability to add partners at will – with "permission" of course. If this isn't *your* arrangement, that's super. but that's the standard definition. That's hardly something the state can or should be legalizing and canonizing in its laws. It's called "dating" or at least "open dating."

        And as far back as humans have been living together, laws have existed governing relationships. I suggest we all get used to that idea.

        And a clarification: I did not mean to say Mormon fundies have somehow got things right. Polygamy at least has precedent in many, many cultures, both ancient and modern. When it's exploitative, it's never right. And I'm not sure it's right at all, but at least it's not hiding its true nature under a newly invented name.

        • Thriceraven

          This case is not about legalizing. It's about decriminalizing. I don't want my relationships to be legally sanctioned in the eyes of the state. I just don't want them to be illegal. As the law stands, anyone who has supported my family (our friends, our families of origins) as well as my partners and I are all engaging in an illegal activity. Again, I don't want or need sanctiong — I just don't think my family arrangement should constitute a criminal offense.

          • Stephen A.

            That does make sense. Thanks for that clarification.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          "as far back as humans have been living together, laws have existed governing relationships."

          You may not have noticed but, for about 400 years, the things that people allow their societies to make laws about have been, sometimes forcibly, diminished. This accelerated in the 20th Century and proceeds unabated. The fact that some society in antiquity had a rule is no longer precedent for having the same rule or one like it today.

          As you point out, other things have come under rule-making, such as clean air and water. These matters have in common demonstrable victims of malfeance or fecklessness. Polyamory doesn't, and least any more than monogamy.

    • http://pagancollegestudent.blogspot.com WarriorPrincessDanu

      It seems that you have a very narrow understanding of polyamory. Polyfidelity really doesn't fit your description at all. There's no sleeping around in polyfidelity, nor is cheating acceptable in any form of polyamory, just like it's not acceptable in monogamy. Nor is polyamory a rejection of all rules. While there may be a rejection of certain rules (in particular, the idea that you can only love one person at a time), but that does not mean that polyamory is "anything goes." The rules may differ from relationship to relationship since each group negotiates their own terms, but each relationship has clearly defined boundaries (even if some are much wider than others). In fact, most polys tend to have a better understanding of the terms of their relationships than monogamous people do because they actually discuss these issues. Monogamous people tend to make assumptions about the nature of their relationships, and if these assumptions don't match up there can be a lot of emotional damage.

      On a side note, if the government has the right to tell people what sort of relationships they are allowed to be in, not only can they make polyamory illegal, but they also can make homosexual and interracial relationships illegal. Do you really think that is right?

      • Stephen A.

        "Polyfidelity" Seriously? I'll grant that each couple seems to define its own terms. That's "do your own thing" in my book, but whatever.

        Despite not liking it, don't get me wrong, I have no problem with people treating each other like jigsaw puzzle pieces and interchanging their partners if they have their partner's permission. Good for them.

        I do not think governments should be forced to accept beyond all reason what could POSSIBLY be accepted as a permanent arrangement that which is by its very nature temporary and infinitely changeable. (And no, marriage between a man/woman or a man/man or woman/woman don't meet that definition, surely not to the extent THIS kind of thing does.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Stephen, you approach this discussion with an air of already having encountered everything and understood it perfectly. Everyone else's contributions are due to PC or some partial understanding inferior to yours.

          And this is how you fool yourself into believing this. When you encounter something new, like polyfidelity, you declare it a new label of the moment for something you've already encountered. Thus do you insulate your ignorance against new news.

          I would guess, from what you've written so far, that you had a girlfriend who cheated on you and, when caught out, tried to call it "polyamory." If that's so — GET OVER IT! Or you will be letting one of life's (alas) predictable disappointments determine your whole political outlook.

          "Temporary and infinitely changeable." Monogamy is temporary; ask any widow/er or divorcee. When done well it can be infinitely changeable, too.

          • Stephen A.

            Your assumption of motive is dead wrong. And if you think marriage is equal to adding partners willy-nilly, I have nothing more to say. It's mindbogglingly ignorant of any sense of reality.

            BTW, this used to be called "wife swapping." Bad idea in the 1950s, bad idea now.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Ah, now you have said something substantial — "ignorant of any sense of reality." Not necessarily correct, but substantial. The human sentiment of possessiveness of a spouse is an impediment to polyamory, and that sentiment is very wide spread. So the polyamorist undertaking may often come acropper on the shoals of human emotion.

            However, the last can also be said of monogamy. You have yet to substantiate a position that polyamory should be prohibited. Like monogamy, it may work for those who work at it.

          • http://twitter.com/Datan0de @Datan0de

            Likewise, if you equate polyamory with "adding partners willy-nilly" then you are the one speaking from a position of ignorance.

          • Thriceraven

            No kidding. I don't know any poly person who defines it as such.

        • http://pagancollegestudent.blogspot.com WarriorPrincessDanu

          Seems you didn't understand the term polyfidelity. It has nothing to do with interchanging and adding partners "willy-nilly." Polyfidelitous relationships are very static. Honestly, they're just monogamous relationships except that there are more than just two partners. Granted, not all forms of polyamory are like that. And in my experience, it seems that it's really only the polyfidelitous people who are interested in any sort of legal marriage. People in more fluid relationships recognize that marriage is a long-term/life-long commitment and would not seek legal recognition for that because that's not what they have.

          • http://pagancollegestudent.blogspot.com WarriorPrincessDanu

            In addition, even when people who are not polyfidelitous are interested in legal marriage, they only include the committed partners. If A,B, and C want to stay together for life, they would get married, while D, E, F (etc.) would not be part of the marriage.

          • Stephen A.

            Then that (AB & C getting married) is polygamy, by definition.

          • http://pagancollegestudent.blogspot.com WarriorPrincessDanu

            Technically, yes. My understanding is that the term polyamory was adopted partly because the general American public tends to conflate polygamy with abusive forms of polygyny (which they did not want to be associated with), and to describe multiple partner relationships in which the partners haven't gotten married. The argument I have heard is polyamory is to polygamy what monogamous dating is to monogamous marriage.

          • http://xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

            Or polyandry (depending on the genders of those involved).

            But really, why is what other people do in the bedroom any of YOUR business?

          • Stephen A.

            If that's the case, I have to believe you. Thanks for this clarification.

  • Meriah

    Just to point out the "Mormons" they refer to aren't officially recognized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). They are fundamental fringe groups. That aside, it is a shame that any type of family is considered 'criminal'. Whether you're FLDS or not. Your religion should have nothing to do with it. I know my doesn't. Whether I'm LDS or not. My love or loves is not the law's business.

  • Serina

    I find myself rather insulted by the idea that just because a family is polyamorous, that it is necessarily emotional and physically traumatic. I notice that Stephen uses the word 'cheated' in reference to situation, which clearly indicates that it wasn't polyamorous at all. A truly polyamorous relationship doesn't involve cheating, it involves open, honest communication, consensual agreements, and caring for all the parties involved.

    And no offence intended to monogamous relationships in the next sentence – this is NOT intended as a general viewpoint on monogamy, which clearly works well for many people. However, practically all of the domestic (physical and emotional) abuse I've come across has been in monogamous relationships.

    Polygamy and polyamory are not the same, any more than rape and consensual sex are the same. Is it so difficult to believe that other people really can love more than one person at a time? And more to the point, do it well? I mean, I can't do cartwheels but that doesn't mean I don't believe other people can't. Generalising from one (not very successful) example to a whole lifestyle is a bit closeminded, don't you think?

    • Stephen A.

      To compare the concept of interchangeable partners with monogamy is kind of bizarre, but that's where we are I guess.

      Anyone who opposes the idea is "closed-minded"? I think this represents perfectly the argument some use that ANY opposition to ANY behavior is somehow "closed-minded." I have an open mind, but not an empty one, and am open to everything existing. Just don't force others to stand up and applaud on cue, as if we just heard Qaddafi make a speech in his parliament.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Yes, Stephen, anyone who opposes the idea without reservation is indeed closed minded.

        If one asks questions like, "If a partner wants out, what provision is made for children?" that is being cautious, not closed-minded. But I don't detect that in you. You assume polyamory = a world of exploitation and trauma (and try to weasle out of the fact that monogamy can be, too). You have one model of marriage in mind and, in an expansive moment, would probably acknowledge that it needs social boundaries on misbehavior. But you assume about polyamory that it's all bad behavior. That's closed-mindedness.

    • http://xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

      Serina wrote:
      However, practically all of the domestic (physical and emotional) abuse I've come across has been in monogamous relationships.

      It could be because of detection bias, specifically, that you're exposed to more monogamous relationships than poly ones, therefor it skews your perception of it.

      Just saying, of course.

  • That Dave

    As an observation, I find it rather striking the immediate association among responders in this thread between Polygamy and Mormon abuse. It may just be a North American bias, but the significant majority of both present and prior polygamists are not Mormon. If you make an argument for Polyamory and contrast it against "abuse" from Polygamist relationships, you are selecting a small subset set and generalizing about the whole. Its a straw man argument, and doesn't further your point.

    According to the Ethnographic Atlas Codebook, of 1231 societies noted, 186 were monogamous. 453 had occasional Polygyny, 588 had more frequent Polygyny, and 4 had polyandry. It is not a new phenomenon. It is not something that destroys social fabric.

    I am rather surprised that there is a criminal aspect to simply living with others above roommate status, however. While I disagree with this, I second that I am glad the conversation is happening.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Well, I learn something every day. When I took freshman anthropology half a century ago I was told there were only one or two societies with polyandry. Four is a new number for me. Thanks.

  • http://feministchristian.blogspot.com Luna

    No, the province of BC has *argued* that your family is illegal. No ruling has been made. And it's not a federal case.

    That being said, hug your kids anyway. And prepare to fight for them, because I suspect the ruling will go against you. It's infuriating.

    (I'm new here – I'm Christian, but respectful of other religions and particularly interested in non-Judeo-Christian religions)

    • Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Welcome to The Wild Hunt, I hope you find your time here educational(in a good way).

      • http://feministchristian.blogspot.com Luna

        Thanks! I hope so too! Education is ALWAYS a good thing. :)

    • Thriceraven

      True enough… no ruling yet. I thought that as soon as I had written it.

      We had a big discussion about this last night around my house. And we will definitely fight, if it comes to it.

      • http://feministchristian.blogspot.com Luna

        Good! It's going to take some really strong, courageous people to win this. I wish you the best.

        • Thriceraven

          Thanks for your kind wishes.

  • Alex Pendragon

    Then just live as "room mates". Let the State go out of it's way to PROVE who slept with who, and after spending a big chunk of the citizens change "protecting" society from these awful people, I think those taxpayers are going to start voting for representatives intelligent enough to know where the taxpayers priorities really are. I won't tell anybody who was good in bed if they don't………(I can see the judge asking the prosecutor what crusade he thinks he's on…)

    • http://feministchristian.blogspot.com Luna

      That sounds a lot like "don't ask, don't tell" from where I'm sitting. What if there are children involved and the province decides to remove them? Should the children be afraid to talk about their family situations in school? Should their parents be afraid to talk about their wives and husbands because someone might report them?

  • Stephen A.

    I agree with everyone here.

    Consensual partner-switching/adding or personal sexual arrangements between adult individuals of any number or gender should NOT be illegal or prosecuted

    It should DEFINITELY not be falsely compared with polygamy, which is by its very nature different.

  • http://www.theinnbetween.net/poly1.html Joreth

    Oh yippee, another person who speaks authoritatively on polyamory and polygamy while simultaneously getting every single definition wrong.

    1) there is a HUGE difference between polygamy and polyamory – they are qualitatively different relationship structures. Polygamy is multiple marriages – there may or may not be love. Polyamory is multiple loves, there may or may not be marriage. Polygamy, in the context of the Bountiful group, is a religious, patriarchal system that enforces sexual relationships between multiple girls (polygyny, specifically, not polygamy) and a single husband, with little to no say from the participants.

    Polyamory, by contrast, is a system that does not enforce anything. Everyone involved has to consent (and be of legal age) to the arrangement, which means that every arrangement looks different.

    2) As someone else already mentioned, this issue is not about legislating, it's about decriminalizing. This case is not about making multiple marriages legal. It is about changing the law from making criminals of consenting adults who live together and love each other. As the law is currently written, it makes the relationship status itself a crime, not the acts within the relationship.

    Beating women (or anyone) should be illegal. Raping minors (or anyone) should be illegal. "Marrying" someone under the legal age of consent should be illegal. Coercing someone into marriage, or into any sexual relationship, should be illegal. Protecting those who do these things should be illegal. These things should be illegal whether the relationship is monogamous or not. Relationships that do not do these things should NOT be illegal even if there are more than 2 people in the relationship.

    The way this law is written is to say that anyone whose relationship has the same number of people as this rapist/child molester/wife-beater over here is, by virtue of having the same number of partners as him (or same number of people living in the same house), is equally illegal even though there is no raping/child molesting/wife-beating going on. You look like that guy who marries children, therefore I'll penalize you as if you were that guy, even though you don't marry children.

    • http://www.theinnbetween.net/poly1.html Joreth

      3) "but can't change definitions at will to suit their arguments. " Pot, meet kettle. You cannot change the definition of "polyamory" to "revolving door partners" or "promiscuous" or "just dating" even "I once knew a guy whose relationship sucked". That has not, and never has been, the definition of polyamory.

      I take extreme offense at someone else proclaiming to know how my relationships work and how I feel without even bothering to ask me first. Please do not sit there and tell me that my relationships are emotionally traumatic, harmful, involve "interchangeable partners", or dating "willy-nilly" when you don't even seem to have bothered to talk to anyone who is polyamorous, let alone me.

      It is the height of arrogance to then insist, after I have just told you that you are wrong about my relationships and everyone else's relationship that I know of, that *I* am the one who is wrong about what poly relationships are like.

      For ACTUAL data on multipartner relationships, read Sex At Dawn, visit the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom's website, visit CARAS, and start out by reading "What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory" (http://www.polyamory.org/~joe/polypaper.htm) – specifically the parts about the psychological makeup of polyamorists, including the standardized assessment that showed no significant difference between polyamorists and monogamists in terms of psychological well-being: ".

      "That is, neither group was particularly neurotic, immature, promiscuous, maladjusted, pathological, or sexually inadequate"
      "found that couples with open marriages in the Netherlands were normal in terms of marriage satisfaction, self-esteem, and neuroticism."
      "and no differences were found in adjustment or happiness between the two groups"
      "found that after several years, there was no significant difference in marital stability (i.e. breaking up vs. staying together) between those couples who had been polyamorous versus those whose marriages had been exclusive"
      "Additionally, "the reasons given for breakup were almost never related to extramarital sex" (p. 318)"
      "Another study found that most respondents reported feeling satisfied with their primary relationship, and felt positively about their partner having sexual relations with others"
      "It was found that polyamorous individuals had slightly less frequent sex than the national average, emphasizing social activities, warmth, and open communication."
      "In sum, many polyamorous people "are in relatively stable primary relationships and do not seem to be motivated by neurotic and pathological needs.""

      More research is currently being done and can be accessed by visiting the Kinsey Institute or CARAS. But the bottom line is that multi-partner adult relationships have no MORE incidences of abuse than monogamous relationships do. Even the patriarchal, authoritarian, multi-partner cults have no more abuse than the patriarchal, authoritarian, single-partner cults.

      It's not the number of partners that makes a relationship healthy or harmful. It's the psychological makeup of the individuals in them, and the bad apples are evenly distributed among all the relationship structures.

  • Rob Greene

    If someone has relationships with more than one partner and they don't live together would that be illegal as well? I really would appreciate if the government would get out of the business of legislating the bedrooms of people. I can protect myself, thank you very much. More often than not, those same government officials are having relationships with more than one person. Especially when you consider the way the taxpayers are being screwed! Maybe that's okay because there's no love involved between the stupid politicians and the taxpayers!

  • Cannucklehead

    I personally don't care what people do between consenting legal aged adults. The problem with Bountiful BC has been that girls as young as 12 have been "married off" to older aged men to perform wifely duties, including sex. That is where I have a problem. There should be no marriages under age 18 I believe, but then that's juts my opinion.

  • Dee

    Interesting post!
    I remember reading that articleIn the Vancouver sun!
    You have some great points about Polygamy Law is B.C
    Thanks for this
    ( http://www.dinninghunter.com/ )

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=636701735 JoHanna M. White

    I’ve always said the attempt to legislate poly marriage will make strange bedfellows: polygynous Mormons & Muslims, Pagans, etc. Hardly people we’d have considered allying with for any other cause. Yeah for Interfaith?