Canada: Anti-polygamy case gives rise to all kinds of family forms

The Vancouver Sun

Forrest Glen Maridas is a polyamorist who believes that it is her constitutionally guaranteed right to freely express her sexuality in any form that that might take. Maridas is 34, American and a full-time counsellor at a university, although she's currently on maternity leave. She's lived with Canadian Russell Osborne since May 2005 and he's sponsoring her for immigration as a common-law spouse under the family classification. 

Maridas and Osborne and their two young children live in a home in Edmonton with Drew Thompson and Katy Furness.

For the past two years, Maridas has been in "an intimate and conjugal relationship" with Thompson, a caregiver, self-defence instructor and "spiritual counsellor."

"Russell and Katy's relationship with one another -- as well as myself with Katy and Drew to Russell's relationship to one another -- are roommates and friends," says Maridas.

Maridas generally sleeps with Russell, but when "sleep schedules" permit, she and Drew sleep together, often with the baby. "On more rare occasions, Drew, Katy and myself sleep together or Drew, Russell and myself sleep together at night."

Drew and Russell do not have a sexual relationship, which is described as a triad or a "polyamorous V." But all of the adults are free to date outside the family. "Being bisexual assisted in having a psychological framework for the ability of multiple relationships to make sense," says Maridas.

She also says that within their family, "there is not a ranking system that some polyamorists follow of primary, secondary, etc. relationships."

Maridas explained all of this in an affidavit filed Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court. It was one of six filed by the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, which is intervening in the case to determine whether the anti-polygamy law is valid.

While others -- such as Surreybased Wiccan priest Sam Wagar, who also filed an affidavit Tuesday -- contend that they have a religious right to practise polygamy, the polyamorists say that for them it's a matter of freedom of expression.

And what they have to say in their affidavits about how they live offers a glimpse of just how far some Canadian families diverge from the tradition of Mom-Dad-kids or the more recent "traditional" families of two Moms or two Dads and kids.

And this peek behind normally closed bedroom doors is a hint of what's to come in November, when Chief Justice Robert Bauman begins hearing the case.

These are the first affidavits to be filed. None has yet been filed to support the opposite view, that the law is a legitimate infringement of rights because of the harm polygamy causes.

Since these affidavits represent only the views of those who believe the anti-polygamy law should be struck down, it's no surprise that they provide a rosy snapshot of domestic life as told by a single member of a family.

Victoria resident Zoe Duff is 50, university-educated and shares "a very large bed in one bedroom" with her common-law husband, Jayson Hawksworth, whom she has lived with since 2001, and Danny Weeds, who has lived with them since March 2009.

Two of Duff's six children, aged 15 and 16, live with them and each has his own room.

The trio continue to date others. Those dates with outside partners are posted in the kitchen and online "for the adults to note."

Although Duff can't imagine not being in a polygamous relationship, she says, "I don't think it is the kind of situation that many other people would have the natural inclination for nor the fortitude to work on."

Karen Ann Detillieux is a 38-yearold research associate living in Lorette, Man., with her husband, Gilles Detillieux, their two school-aged children, Blair Mahaffy, and Mahaffy's two teenage children. Their home has "two functional master bedrooms" and two other bedrooms that are shared by the children. At this point, their triad is exclusive with no outside dating. But Karen says jealousy is not a problem and "is nothing more or less than one of a whole spectrum of human emotions to be understood and worked through like any other."

The only man who filed an affidavit is John Bashinski of Montreal. His family triad includes Kimberly Joyce and Warren Baird.

Together they are raising two-yearold Kaia, who was born two days before the three agreed to make their arrangement permanent.

Each has a separate bedroom and they live on a "relatively formal biweekly schedule" that includes large blocks of family time, undisturbed personal time for each adult, time with Kaia for each adult alone and "date nights" outside the home for Joyce with one of the men.

In their sworn statements, all of the polyamorists said they've told close friends and family know of their arrangement, but they've not shared it widely out of concern that they might be ostracized or lose their jobs.

Bashinski, a 47-year-old American who works for a technology company, was the most open about his fears concerning the anti-polygamy law and its impact if the chief justice rules that it is constitutional and the law is subsequently enforced. Bashinski worries that Kaia might be taken away by child-protection authorities. He fears prosecution, conviction and punishment.

He also fears the prospect of being denied permanent residency in Canada. And in saying that, Bashinski raises the question fundamental to this court case: What kind of country do Canadians want?

Click below to read some of the affidavits filed in B.C. Supreme Court:

By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun June 10, 2010