Military court accepts NCSF’s amicus brief in support of consensual non-monogamy

In March, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom filed an amicus ("friend of the court") brief in a case involving a marine who engaged in a consensual threesome and was later convicted of adultery, attempted consensual sodomy, and indecent conduct. The brief argued that prosecutors on the case were ignoring the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision in which it was decided that moral judgment is not a basis for criminalizing consensual sexual conduct.

In April, the Navy and Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals accepted NCSF's amicus brief.

Dick Cunningham, NCSF's Legal Counsel, said, "This is an important brief in support of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision -- Lawrence v. Texas. Prosecutors and courts have no right to impose a narrow view of sexual morality on consenting adults."

To see the full legal documents on this case, click here.

Petition for multiple-person family law in Taiwan gains signatures

Victoria Hsu, lawyer and president of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCPR), is collecting signatures on a proposal for new Taiwan marriage laws that would allow both same-sex marriages and legal protections for multiple-person relationships.

The multiple-person family portion of the proposed law would adapt the existing law, which Hsu considers "out of date" and "patriarchal," since it is rooted in the practice of concubinage.

The petition has almost 30,000 signatures so far, and Hsu hopes to acquire one million by the end of 2013.

If Hsu's law is adopted by the government, Taiwain would be the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage -- and one of the first countries in the world with a multiple-person family law.

Brazilian notary grants three-person civil union

Brazil has been making headlines as it became known that a public notary in Sao Paulo accepted a civil union between three people. The union was formalized three months ago, but has only now become public knowledge.

Public notary Claudia do Nascimento Domingues granted the union after determining that there was no law or mention in the Brazilian Constitution prohibiting such an arrangement. In defense of the decision, Domingues has said, "We are only recognising what has always existed. We are not inventing anything."

The triad of one man and two women, who live together in Rio de Janeiro, have a joint bank account and share all expenses. The union was made official by a deed of Union Poliafetiva ("Deed of Polyaffective Union"). Under this new status, the triad legally share property and assets, are entitled to family hospital visits, and are protected in case of separation or death.

In response to this news, a columnist at The Guardian asks, "Why shouldn't three people get married?" She writes:

The government can dictate that two people should be in a marriage, but it can't legislate what will make them feel happy or stable or emotionally complete together. And if we accept that, as we do every time we allow anyone the freedom to make a decision about who they'll marry, and furthermore allow them the freedom to call each other by execrable pet names in public, then does it not begin to seem strange, just a bit, that we do allow the government to dictate how many people are allowed to pledge to be together forever?

. . . as long as everyone is entering a marriage equally, as long as everyone is really going to make an effort to be open and honest to everyone else, it's probably not the government's job to tell them how many of them there should be.

The move has, as usual, elicited a strong negative response from religious groups. It is also yet to be seen whether courts, service providers, and private companies will uphold the ruling.

What the Canadian ruling means for polyamorists

It's been a month and a half since the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled in favor of upholding Canada's anti-polygamy law and narrowing its scope. In the poly community, nobody was quite sure how to react to the ruling. Now that the dust has settled, the attorney who represented the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association in the case has released an open letter to the Canadian polyamory community.

The attorney, John Ince, is poly himself, and although he thinks that the "scope of the prohibition" is too extreme, he believes that the decision is an overall positive one for polyamorists.

In general terms, I think that the decision allows us to do virtually anything the vast majority of polyamorists would want to do . . . His decision makes it clear that polyamorists are not criminals and this is a major step forward for our community to gain social acceptance and become more integrated into mainstream Canadian culture.

The reason for this, Ince explains, is that the ruling only criminalizes institutionalized marriages that are non-monogamous. Due to the definitions of the words "institutionalized" and "marriage," this law does not apply to poly relationships.

I conclude that given the lack of polyamorous history, sanction or support for "polyamorous marriage," that polyamorous people cannot form the type of marriages that the judge found are prohibited.

I go so far as to say that even if polyamorous people wanted to form such relationships, they cannot. The whole structure of institutionalization that the judge emphasized over and over again as key to his decision is simply lacking in our community.

. . . Because there is no polyamorous institution of marriage, how far can polyamorous people go in celebrating and formalizing their relationships? In my view: probably as far as they want.

So, polyamorists are free to have ceremonies, take vows of love, and exchange rings. To remove any legal risk, Ince suggests that any commitment ceremony refrain from using the word "marriage," or if that is not possible, avoid including any "official" in the process. A marriage is not a marriage under the law unless it is enforced by an institutionalized sanctioning authority.

And there are other upsides to the ruling, Ince explains.

Because the court found that polyamorous relationships that are not institutionalized into a form of marriage are lawful, people in such relationships no longer have to face the chilling argument in child custody, immigration or other matters that they are criminals. That is obviously a very positive outcome of this case.

Further, nothing in this case prevents people in cohabiting polyamorous relationships from entering contracts with respect to most key family issues, such as community property and the care of children, and hospital privileges.

For more in-depth, specific information on the implications of the Canadian ruling for the poly community, read Ince's full statement.