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Keep up with this story and more It's enough to make any monogamist's head spin. Researchers are just beginning to study the phenomenon, but the few who do estimate that openly polyamorous families in the United States number more than half a million, with thriving contingents in nearly every major city.
Over the past year, books like Open, by journalist Jenny Block; Opening Up, by sex columnist Tristan Taormino; and an updated version of The Ethical Slut—widely considered the modern "poly" Bible—have helped publicize the concept.
Custody battles among poly parents are not uncommon; the most public of them was a 1999 case in which a 22-year-old Tennessee woman lost rights to parent her daughter after outing herself on an MTV documentary.
Anecdotally, research shows that children can do well in poly families—as long as they're in a stable home with loving parents, says Elisabeth Sheff, a sociologist at Georgia State University, who is conducting the first large-scale study of children of poly parents, which has been ongoing for a decade.
A couple years later, Scott introduced her to Larry, a software developer at Microsoft, and the two quickly fell in love, with Scott's assent.
The three have been living together for a decade now, but continue to date others casually on the side.
His mother, Vera, looks over and smiles; she's there with her boyfriend, Larry.
Twelve years ago, she started dating Scott, a writer and classical-album merchant.
But because academia is only beginning to study the phenomenon—Sheff's study is too recent to have drawn conclusions about the children's well-being over time—there is little data to support that notion in court.
Today, the nonprofit Polyamory Society posts a warning to parents on its Web site: If your Poly Family has children, please do not put your children and family at risk by coming out to the public or by being interviewed [by] the press!
"This group is really rising up from the underground, emboldened by the success of the gay-marriage movement," says Glenn Stanton, the director of family studies for Focus on the Family, an evangelical Christian group.
"And while there's part of me that says, 'Oh, my goodness, I don't think I could see them make grounds,' there's another part of me that says, 'Well, just watch them.' "Conservatives are not alone in watching warily.They are polyamorous, to use the term of art applied to multiple-partner families like theirs, and they wouldn't want to live any other way.