Believe it or not, there are still criminal laws in many places criminalizing consensual sex and relationships between adults.
It doesn't matter to them how loving, happy, and lasting the relationships are. It apparently doesn't matter to the people interfering that every dollar or minute they spend trying to stop consenting adults from loving each other is a dollar or minute that could instead go into protecting people, especially children, against predators.
In addition to the persecution and prosecution of consanguinamorous people, polyamorists, polygamists, and other ethical nonmonogamists can face discrimination and even prosecution.
Some awesome people put together a very helpful lists of state laws for polyamorous people in the US or considering moving to the US. First, note the disclaimer that there is an ever-present at the bottom of this blog. I'll mostly repeat it here:
The focus of this blog is consenting adults. This blog does not advocate anyone engage in activity that is currently illegal in their jurisdiction; it does advocate changing or repealing any law that prevents the freedom of association, love, and full marriage equality for adults. This blog condemns rape, sexual assault, and child molestation, and does not provide medical, therapeutic, legal, financial, or cooking advice. This blog links to other sites for informational purposes; it does not necessarily support everything at those links.OK, with that out of the way, I'll continue as a friend.
Please keep in mind that while a state may not have a law against "fornication" (sex outside of a legal marriage), "adultery" (when a married person has sex with someone other than her or his legal spouse), or cohabitation, it might still criminalize consensual sex between close relatives (whether genetically related, steprelation, or adoptive). For more information about that, see here. Also, laws on the books may be rarely or selectively enforced, so it it s good to consult an attorney familiar with the laws of a state as well as actual criminal and civil cases in that state and general legal climate.
While most nonmonogamists never get prosecuted or sued, the threat is always there in many places.
With states that allow a legally married spouse to get an advantage in a divorce by citing adultery or sue their spouse's lover for financial compensation, the only way to be sure of avoiding a problem is to simply avoid the risk entirely by not getting involved with someone who is legally married, or, if you are legally married, not getting involved with anyone other than your spouse. Even if everyone is enthusiastic at first or at the time of the sex or relationship, someone can still use the law to get what they see as revenge should things tum cold.
State By State
All 50 US states have statutes against bigamy/polygamy (multiple licensed marriages). In most states, bigamy is a felony.
In the following states, bigamy is a misdemeanor. However, once the penalty is paid, you are back at square one.
Hawaii (petty misdemeanor-- 30 days in jail)
Rhode Island (misdemeanor, $1000)
The following lists are ordered by which states have the most promise statutorily. The first list is the best, the last list is the worst.
The following states, have no statutes against fornication, adultery, or cohabitation, and they also do not recognize common-law marriages (which assigns marital status to people who might not want to be considered married).
The following states have statutes that concern adultery, but none for fornication, cohabitation, or common-law marriage. In some of them adultery is grounds for divorce only. In others the offending spouse simply forfeits any rights to the innocent spouse's estate. In the rest of them, adultery is a crime that can only be prosecuted by the offended spouse. In a successful polygamous relationship, these need not be obstructive. If the relationship fails, however, the statutory adulterer will be charged.
Maryland (Adultery results in a $10 fine and is grounds for divorce)
Texas (Texas does recognize common-law marriages, but apparently only if they are registered with the county clerk)
Both states make adultery and fornication misdemeanors, although in Illinois the conduct must be "open and notorious." For interest's sake, we have listed all of the states whose statutes are no worse than Georgia or Illinois. This only means that in these states you are as likely as not, to be able to find a lawyer who will talk to you.
New Hampshire (New Hampshire recognizes common-law marriages, but only for inheritance purposes after death)
The following states have laws against cohabitation.
The following states recognize common-law marriages, or else make adultery a felony, and are not on the previous lists.
How do people minimize the risk of losing in court? What can nonmonogamists do to protect themselves? Any of these steps might help...
1) Consult a lawyer. I am not a lawyer. A criminal defense or family law attorney might be someone well worth consulting.
2) Move to more enlightened states or countries.
3) Be careful who you tell and what you tell them. In the US, we have a Constitutional right against self-incrimination (see 5th Amendment) and the right to remain silent when arrested by law enforcement. It's a good idea when dealing with police to give them polite, brief "yes" or "no" or "I don't know" or "I don't remember" answers unless even one of those could incriminate you. In the US, you also have the right to an attorney and it is a good idea speak up and ask for a lawyer if you're held or taken in by police. Also in the US, unless there is imminent danger to someone, you don't have the let police into your home without a search warrant, and even search warrants can have limits. YOU may think something is obvious and gives you away, the police may even have figured it out, but staying silent about it can still protect you. Please see this about talking with police.
4) Be careful what you document. Many lovers enjoy taking video or pictures of themselves having fun with each other, but for the nonmonogamous, such media, if it falls into the wrong hands, can be trouble.
5) Have a cover story. Anticipate questions, whether from those you know you or those who don't who might not approve. Historically, it isn't unusual for a home to have three or more adults.
6) Know your risk in raising children. Not only will children have to deal with the prejudice of others, but children may also provide testimony that goes against you, often unwittingly.
7) Stick to private places and lock the door when you get to the fun.
Note that most ethicists say it is OK to lie to authorities who are trying to enforce unjust laws or policies. An extreme example is a Nazi SS officer asking you, "Are you hiding any Jews here?" It was ethical to say "No." Well, I think that applies here, too, though the situation is not as extreme. It is nobody else's business if adults are having consensual sex or relationships.
This advice shouldn't even be necessary, but until we get to the point where we have relationship rights for all adults, including full marriage equality, nonmonogamists should think about protecting themselves. Of course, some level of trouble is necessary to make change. Laws need to be overturned in courts or changed by legislatures, but it is up to each set of lovers to decide for themselves if they want to come out of the closet and to push for those things. The more other people realize that ethical nonomonogamy is a reality all around them, the sooner the persecution will be greatly reduced.Police officers usually have some wiggle-room when it comes to investigating or arresting people can can look the other way if they choose. Prosecutors can choose not to prosecute. Judges can dismiss cases. Juries can refuse to convict (research jury nullification). So I beg these people to let consenting adults love each other without harassment, without prosecution.