On June 29th, the city of Somerville, MA adopted a legal amendment to an ordinance on “Domestic Partnerships” that extends legal recognition of such partnerships to arrangements between more than two people, or so-called “polyamorous” groupings.
The Mayor of the city (populated by around 81,000 and situated northwest of Boston), Joe Curtatone, signed the amended ordinance after a unanimous vote by the City Council a few days prior.
The civil code thus amended was already a bizarre progressive tome, even before this latest addition of Newspeak. The preamble, for example, on the “Recognition and Scope” of the law on domestic partnerships, opens as follows:
The City of Somerville recognizes the diverse composition of its citizenry and values its people. The City acknowledges that many laws governing family relationships were enacted in a time when not all families were properly recognized.
The ordinance goes on to establish the criteria for recognition of “domestic partnerships,” which include that the individuals be “in a relationship of mutual support, caring and commitment and intend to remain in such a relationship,” “reside together,” “are not married,” and that they “consider themselves to be a family.”
Of course, these criteria in a way read simply like what many states have long recognized as “common law marriages.” But the latest changes to the ordinance step well outside the realm of common law, or indeed common sense.
The amendments change the definition of “domestic partnership” from “the entity formed by two persons” meeting the above criteria to, simply, “the entity formed by people” meeting those criteria. They also strike the criterion of exclusivity from the definition of the relationship, removing entirely a line that stipulated that the individuals be “each other’s sole domestic partner.” The other amendments are merely grammatical, changing singular pronouns, verbs, and adverbs to plural ones: e.g., “he or she” becomes “they”; “both domestic partners” becomes “all domestic partners”; “one or both domestic partners” becomes “any domestic partners”; and so forth.
Speaking to the USA Today-affiliated Somerville Journal, a spokesperson for an advocacy group called The Chosen Family Law Center said, “I think it’s pretty amazing – strategies like this are the best chance we have of moving towards a legal understanding of family that’s as comprehensive as it needs to be to serve all families.” And one of the City Councillors who voted for the amendments, Joe Davis, told the Journal, “I’ve consistently felt that when society and government tries to define what is or is not a family, we’ve historically done a very poor job of doing so… so that guided my thinking on this.”
It’s hard to see, though, how David was “guided” by the idea that government does a “very poor job” defining family to reach a decision which redefines family.
Pro-family advocacy groups have good reason to eye this new ordinance with concern, even if it be only a local matter in a Boston suburb. The Boston Globe headline about the ordinance trumpeted it as “a turning point,” quoting another representative from the Chosen Family Law Center. Clearly, the hope of groups like this is that the Somerville law become a model for adoption elsewhere.
But an even more ominous signal to the potential peril of this law comes via TMZ, who ended their report on the ordinance with the insinuating sentence, “BTW … Massachusetts was the first state to recognize same-sex marriage back in 2004.” Indeed, once same-sex marriage began gaining local and state recognition, family advocates began warning the American people that this would lead one day to a nationwide redefinition of marriage, only to be shouted down by those on the Left (and even some on the Right) that they were engaging in the “slippery slope fallacy.”
Later, once proven right in their earlier warnings with the decisions in the Windsor and Obergefell Supreme Court cases, family advocates began warning that other fruits of the sexual revolution would follow, like the redefinition of sex itself and the recognition of polyamorous unions—and, again, they were accused of employing the “slippery slope.” Now, in 2020, having lately seen the Supreme Court effectively redefine sex in the Bostock case, we see a city in Massachusetts moving to recognize polyamory, and it seems that the arguments of family advocates haven’t been a “slippery slope” fallacy, but rather an accurate observation that we are, in fact, on a steep downward trajectory and gaining speed.
It is little comfort to be able to say one was right or “we told you so” when the outcomes are so dire, so no one hopes more than pro-family groups themselves that they are wrong in their fears of the Somerville policy being adopted more widely. Therefore, we can expect to see those groups working vociferously to prevent that eventuality. In the meantime, though, anyone who in the past thought that such groups’ warnings were a “slippery slope” fallacy should probably reevaluate their position, and—if they hope to stop or slow the downward trajectory—exchange their blinders for ski goggles and get to work.