Interested in Polyamory? Somerville, Massachusetts May Be the City for You

“It’s definitely becoming more of a movement,” Ms. Smith said. In recent years organizations focused on nonmonogamy have initiated political and legal action, aggregated resources and developed scientific research.

After Somerville passed its domestic partnership law, Arlington and Cambridge, two other cities in Massachusetts, added polyamorous units to their existing domestic partnership ordinances. But once people register as domestic partners there, benefits may extend beyond Massachusetts as well: “So people around the country are able to come get registered and go home to generally use it as they would any other domestic partnership they registered for in their home city or anywhere,” Diana Adams, executive director of Chosen Family Law Center and one of the people who helped write the anti-discrimination ordinances for Somerville, wrote in an email.

The isolation and turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic may have also played a role in some people choosing to look beyond a two-person relationship model, said Rebecca Alvarez Story, a sexologist and the chief executive of Bloomi, a company that makes sex toys and produces sex education content. With polyamory, she said, people are thinking, “I might be more fulfilled, I’ll get more help with my family, the financial burden is shared more.”

Nevertheless, people in nonmonogamous relationships are still often perceived and represented negatively. Some are afraid to come out at work for fear of being fired or overlooked for promotions, since there are no employment protections on the basis of relationship structure. Parents sometimes lose custody battles in family court because they have multiple partners.

For the most part, the Somerville ordinances will not fix these problems. The anti-discrimination ordinances are very limited in scope; and though the domestic partnership law is more broad and allows polyamorous people from outside Somerville to register as domestic partners, it will not protect someone from being fired or from having their children taken away. But supporters of the laws say there is significance in what they symbolize.

“We’re no longer operating where it’s a heteronormative, cisgender woman and man, and 2.5 kids,” Ms. Story Alvarez said.