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Somerville recognizes polyamorous relationships in new domestic partnership ordinance

Somerville had never had a domestic partnership ordinance before.Jessica Rinaldi

The City of Somerville has adopted a domestic partnership policy that recognizes polyamorous relationships after a unanimous vote of the City Council, Councilor Lance Davis said Wednesday.

The ordinance, which may be the first of its kind in the country, passed after Davis introduced it at a council meeting last Thursday, reasoning with his fellow councilors that “I don’t feel it’s the place of government to define a family,” he said by phone.

Mayor Joseph Curtatone signed the ordinance into law on Monday, Davis said.

The city had never had a domestic partnership ordinance before, Davis said, unlike Boston, Cambridge, and many other Massachusetts cities that introduced such policies before same-sex marriage became legal in the state in 2004.


The issue arose recently because of the coronavirus pandemic, as Somerville residents in committed relationships who aren’t married approached Davis and other councilors with concerns about being able to visit sick partners in the hospital, he said.

The inclusion of relationships between more than two consenting adults was added just before the meeting at the suggestion of Councilor J.T. Scott, according to Davis.

“The ordinance was ready to go, but it just didn’t feel right to me. I wanted more input,” Davis said.

Scott called and said he had noticed that the language in the ordinance defined a domestic partnership as a relationship between two people.

“I said, ‘I don’t have a good answer for that,’ " Davis said.

After some discussion, they tweaked the language in the ordinance and Davis presented it to the full council, which voted it in without discussion, he said.

So far, the public response to the measure has been entirely positive, Davis said.

“I got an e-mail from someone at my church that said, ‘Wow, this is amazing. Thank you so much for doing this,’ " he said. 


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at Follow him @jeremycfox.