Sexuality Research and Social Policy

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 63–75

Polyamory and Criminalization of Plural Conjugal Unions in Canada: Competing Narratives in the s.293 Reference


DOI: 10.1007/s13178-013-0137-2

Cite this article as:
Barnett, J.P. Sex Res Soc Policy (2014) 11: 63. doi:10.1007/s13178-013-0137-2


The constitutionality of criminalizing plural conjugal unions recently came under review through a reference on s.293 of the Criminal Code of Canada. This article examines popular narratives of the reference, focusing on the role of polyamorists in this case and its impact on their socio-legal positioning. An examination of public texts yields three competing narratives: Canadian citizens fighting government intrusion, fundamentalist religious practitioners seeking religious freedom, and patriarchal oppression of women and children. The most successful of these narratives construct clear boundaries between monogamous citizens and polygamous outsiders. The final judgment upheld the criminalization of plural conjugal union while parsing unsanctified polyamorous relationships as outside the intent of the law. This maneuver affirms the centrality of monogamy to Canadian citizenship and the privileged legal position of monogamists. At the same time, polyamorists are “saved” from explicit criminalization, but only as long as their community and its unions remain unrecognized. Polyamorists' position as marginal citizens is reaffirmed.


Polyamory Polygamy Sexual citizenship Law Marriage 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Anthropology, & CriminologyUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada

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