Court rules polyamorist relationships are lawful

 The BC Supreme Court issued a ruling today that affects the sex-positive community in Canada. The court held that the vaguely worded 120 year old law prohibiting polygamous marriage, and originally aimed at patriarchal religious sects like those at Bountiful BC, does not apply to cohabiting polyamorous families in common law relationships.

This is a big relief to the polyamorous community in Canada. Prior to the court case the poorly worded law could have been interpreted as prohibiting any family with more than two adults.

Some polyamorous families involved in child custody disputes and immigration issues worried that simply by living together they could be considered criminals and thus lose custody of their children or be denied immigration or lose other social benefits.

The court held that the law only prohibits multi-partner families who go so far as to engage in a form of marriage.

I represented the Canadian Polyamorous Advocacy Association in the court case and I believe the decision marks an important step forward in mainstreaming polyamory in Canada.

I compare the legal situation of polyamorous folks to that of gay people in the 1950s. Then the criminal law prohibited gay relationships. But in the 1960s those laws were repealed and in a few decades the gay community grew and thrived in Canada, with gays ultimately receiving the same rights as anyone else.

I think a parallel trend is likely with polyamory. Now that the court has found that polyamorous relationships do not cause harm and are not criminal, we can expect to see polyamory gradually become social mainstreamed, exactly as gay relationships have.

While the court made clear that the vast majority of polyamorous relationships are non-harmful and non-criminal, the court did rule that the additional step of formalizing a polyamorist relationship is a criminal act. .

Nowhere does the court indicate how a loving polyamorous family who are free to live together in common law and who are causing no social harm, suddenly become criminals and socially harmful just because they seek to formalize their relationship with vows and a ceremony! In the context of their relationship, of living day in and day out in a polyamorous union, the acts of formalization seem trivial. Yet those specific acts make them criminals in the eyes of the law according to the judge.

No evidence at trial was adduced showing that such formalized polyamory caused anyone harm. There was a great deal of evidence showing that traditional religious male-dominant relationships with multiple partners created serious social problems.

But such relationships are radically different than modern, egalitarian polyamorous relationships. The polyamorous community will be interested in seeing this case appealed to correct what we see as an error in the judgment.

But aside from that, the judgment is good news for sex-positive folks in Canada.

Comments

Re: "Sanctioning Event"

Actually in Canadian marriage law a "sanctioning event" is something very specific. To "sanction" a marriage involves the inclusion of a priest, judge, captain or other person legally allowed by the government to sanction marriages.  Without this person, it is a simple commitment ceremony and can be just as personally meaningful. As long as there is no appearance that the person performing this "event" is "sanctioning" a legal marriage, there should be some legal leeway now for Canadian poly families to claim commow law rights.