Who gets to decide who is in your family? In the US at least, the answer to that in many cases is… NOT you! The definition of family is determined at a legal level for a variety of purposes, such as healthcare benefits and hospital visitation. Many of these issues, of course, have been at the heart of the fight over same sex marriage rights.
Now, a family in Connecticut find themselves on the forefront of another aspect of this fight over the definition of “family,” that of zoning laws and housing rights.
“They don’t seem to identify as [polyamorous], though in my mind any group coming together and living communally as a loving, intentional family is closely related to poly, regardless of how the sexual/romantic relationships work. And clearly, this is very relevant for poly families.”
I certainly agree that it’s relevant to poly families, and some interesting discussion about the laws governing group housing situations has arisen on-list. Most of it boiling down to “be very careful to research the local laws before purchasing property — or even signing a lease — with a group of “unrelated adults.”
But are they “polyamorous”?
Still, the question has been raised again on-list and elsewhere, of whether these folks are “actually polyamorous.” What constitutes “polyamorous” is a sticky question to start with (see my past article “Polyamory”: What’s IN and What’s OUT? for more discussion on what “counts as polyamory”.) That said, I’m not sure it really matters whether they’re poly or not.
The question of whether we are free to determine who “family” is, is in my opinion a human rights issue (thanks to Woodhull’s Family Matters Project for this perspective). And the question of whether we are free to determine who “family” is, is definitely a “poly issue” from a legal and social standpoint. In many ways, I feel that what they do behind closed doors is completely irrelevant, in the same way that what I do behind closed doors is irrelevant. After all, it is — and should be — irrelevant whether a “family by blood” that includes aunts and uncles and grandparents are all “sleeping together.” Why should it matter whether any of these people are “sleeping together”?
Situations like this definitely cause me to feel — not for the first time — that the whole institution of marriage as a legal entity conferring special rights and privileges (in the US) should be tossed out the window. This wouldn’t even be a question if there weren’t issues surrounding health care and property rights (along with NIMBYism etc) tied up in whether these people are “married” and/or a “family.”
And as Allena Gabosch of Seattle’s Center for Sex-Positive Culture said,
“More people are creating intentional living situations and because of the cost of housing now days […] , it’s becoming more and more common. “
So who’s in YOUR family? Is that the same or different from who the government thinks is in your family? Or your neighbors? Or your “blood relatives”?
In any case, I hope you’ll remember that…
No matter who or how many you love, Love is ALWAYS ok!
Contact me, and we’ll set up a time to chat!
©2015, Dawn M. Davidson