The Future of Polyamorous Marriage: Lessons from the Marriage Equality Struggle

68 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014 Last revised: 11 Jun 2015

See all articles by Hadar Aviram

Hadar Aviram

UC Law, San Francisco

Gwendolyn Leachman

University of Wisconsin Law School

Date Written: August 23, 2014


Amidst the recent legal victories and growing public support for same- sex marriage, numerous polyamorous individuals have expressed interest in pursuing legal recognition for marriages between more than two consenting adults. This Article explores the possibilities that exist for such a poly- amorous marriage equality campaign, in light of the theoretical literature on law and social movements, as well as our own original and secondary research on polyamorous and LGBT communities. Among other issues, we examine the prospect of prioritizing the marriage struggle over other forms of nonmarital relationship recognition; pragmatic regulative challenges, like taxation, healthcare, and immigration; and how law and culture shape these struggles and their ability to produce social change.

We argue that legal mobilization for same-sex marriage has produced conflicting pressures for contemporary polyamorous activism. On one hand, same-sex marriage litigation has provided several doctrinal footholds for expanding marriage to polyamorous relationships. On the other hand, same- sex marriage litigation has simultaneously reinforced cultural stigmas against polyamorous relationships—stigmas that constrain the practical utility of those legal tools (especially as means for implementing broader social change beyond the letter of the law). By accounting for these conflict- ing legal and cultural pressures, this Article provides a comprehensive roadmap of the issues, strategies, and challenges likely to emerge along the path toward polyamorous marriages.

Keywords: marriage, polyamory, sexuality, GLBT, rights, social movements, equal protection, due process, queer theory

Suggested Citation

Aviram, Hadar and Leachman, Gwendolyn, The Future of Polyamorous Marriage: Lessons from the Marriage Equality Struggle (August 23, 2014). Harvard Journal of Law and Gender, Forthcoming, UC Hastings Research Paper No. 118, Available at SSRN: or

Hadar Aviram (Contact Author)

UC Law, San Francisco ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

Gwendolyn Leachman

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

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