Beyond Polygamy

Kaiponanea T. Matsumura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Approximately four percent of American adults - the same percentage of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender ("LGBT") - are currently in consensually non-monogamous relationships. Progressive municipalities have recently shown an interest in recognizing and extending legal rights to individuals in such relationships. In the past two years, the cities of Somerville and Cambridge, and the town of Arlington, Massachusetts, have enacted domestic partnership legislation that extends to more than two partners. Others are sure to follow. This Article offers guidance regarding the form that legal regulation of plural relationships should take. To date, the few scholarly attempts to study the regulation of plural relationships have focused on polygamy: Marriage between more than two partners. This Article takes a different approach. Rather than adapting the framework of marriage to relationships involving multiple partners - a fruitless task given the incredible variation in plural relationship types - it decenters marriage by identifying how people in plural relationships configure their lives and analyzing how the law can respond to their needs. The Article makes three contributions. First, it reveals the diversity of plural relationship forms and explains their regulatory consequences. Second, it articulates a set of principles to guide the creation of plural relationship statuses at the state and local level. Third, it explores the potential of plural relationships to break marriage's stranglehold on all forms of adult intimacy, promoting greater individual freedom and equal treatment of all relationship types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1903-1962
Number of pages60
JournalIowa Law Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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