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Somerville bans discrimination against people in polyamorous relationships

Somerville bans discrimination against people in polyamorous relationships
Somerville bans discrimination against people in polyamorous relationships 02:08

SOMERVILLE - Somerville may be the first city in the nation to pass protections for people in polyamorous relationships.

"For the longest time people in our community have lived in the shadows of the law in a lot of ways," Somerville City Councilor Willie Burnley Jr. said.

The city of Somerville is shining a light on protecting neighbors who love more than one romantic partner. A newly passed ordinance protects polyamorous people from workplace discrimination or biased policing based on their relationship structure.

"I've had people who I know live in this community reach out to me and say, 'I just heard the news. This is incredible. All of my partners are so excited,'" Burnley Jr. said.

Willie Burnley Jr. is a city councilor at large, but he's also been a part of the polyamorous community for about eight years.

"It's really just a personal choice to say I'm not going to hold back my love for people just because I have a preexisting relationship," Burnley Jr. said. "I want to be in connection with as many people who want to be in connection with me."

Back in 2020, Somerville passed a domestic partnership ordinance which recognized polyamorous partnerships. This latest policy fills in more legal gaps for families who might be living in secret.

"For people especially with children, the fear of targeting by DCF or other child protective agencies in other states is real," said JT Scott, Ward 2 City Councilor. "So, this could be absolutely life-changing and allow them to actually live openly and not fear that their kids are at risk of being taken away from them."

Somerville city leaders say it's a big first step, but the real impact would come with other communities following suit.

"Just like San Francisco being the first in the country to have a same sex domestic partnership ordinance all those many years ago, it took time for that to spread," Scott said. "For more cities to pick that up. For Vermont to do their civil unions. Eventually, it reaches that point where it's everywhere. It's got to be somewhere first. I'm happy to say Somerville leads the way." 

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