"'Marriage Equality' and the Politics of Love"
by Tim Ward
The recent Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage makes it seem as if marriage equality has finally come to the U.S. But that is not actually accurate. The celebration is great step forward, but in truth, there's more work to do if we as a nation want to truly recognize and celebrate the diversity of love, relationships and family.
For example, polyamory. Polyamorous partners do not have the privilege of legal marriage. What's worse, many are closeted for fear of discrimination in housing, employment and child custody. Prominent organizations such as the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) have brought attention to how polyamorists and other ethically non-monogamous people are targets for discrimination in the same way that LGBTQ folks have been. See here.
The ironic thing is, there would be no big deal about a person who just happened to be sleeping with more than one lover. But call it polyamory -- in other words, a public, ethical stance about loving more than one partner with honesty and integrity -- and that seems intolerable to so many. Currently, polyamorous people do not have equal protection under the law, because anything other than monogamy is seen as a fringe/freakish/immoral lifestyle choice and not as a valid sexual or relationship orientation.
I interviewed author and poly advocate Dr. Anya Trahan about the Supreme Court Decision, and what she sees as the way forward for those who embrace ethical loving with multiple partners.
Question: Do you think polyamory is a sexual orientation? Is it a choice or is it inborn?
Trahan: One of the great things about being human is the ability to choose the language and the labels that best articulate our values. I have heard many polys say that their way of living is a sexual orientation. That is a totally valid label, and I support anyone who wishes to use it. And, it may even be that from a legal standpoint, embracing the label of sexual orientation to describe polyamory may help prevent discrimination in the future -- because it is already commonly understood that to discriminate based on one's sexual orientation is not only wrong, but illegal.
The way I personally think of polyamory is as a relationship orientation. In my work as a relationship coach, I have found that a surprising number of my clients consider themselves "partners" or "family" with those whom there is no sexual interaction. In other words, polyamory seems to be more about coming together for the purposes of co-creating a life together, a support system, based on mutually shared values and philosophies. Responsible sexual expression may be enjoyed, of course, but that is not necessarily a prerequisite to form loving, intense, committed connections.
Question: You are a public figure, an author and a spokesperson for polyamory. Have you suffered any negative consequences?
Trahan: When I first came out as poly back in 2012, I lost a number of close friends. Members of my biological family reacted with open hostility and judgment, resulting in a period of estrangement. Since my book about polyamory, Opening Love has been published this year, I have been fired from two jobs. I have no desire to bring this to the courts (legal battles are, for me, not a good use of my energy), although I know that I would have at least a small shot at winning a discrimination case, because one of the organizations stated openly in writing that the reason I was being fired was for being openly polyamorous. In theory, I could sue on the grounds of sexual discrimination. ...