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Terisa Greenan and her boyfriend, Matt, are enjoying a rare day of Seattle sun, sharing a beet carpaccio on the patio of a local restaurant.

Matt holds Terisa's hand, as his 6-year-old son squeezes in between the couple to give Terisa a kiss.

Recently, Terisa decided to add Matt, a London transplant to Seattle, to the mix.

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The majority of them don't seem particularly interested in pressing a political agenda; the joke in the community is that the complexities of their relationships leave little time for activism.But they are beginning to show up on the radar screen of the religious right, some of whose leaders have publicly condemned polyamory as one of a host of deviant behaviors sure to become normalized if gay marriage wins federal sanction.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.The term "polyamory," coined in the 1990s, popped up in both the Merriam-Webster and Oxford English dictionaries in 2006.

Polyamory might sound like heaven to some: a variety of partners, adding spice and a respite from the familiarity and boredom that's doomed many a traditional couple.

If Scott starts feeling neglected, he can call the woman he's been dating casually on the side. 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.

Everyone in this group is heterosexual, and they insist they never sleep with more than one person at a time. 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.

His mother, Vera, looks over and smiles; she's there with her boyfriend, Larry.

Suddenly it starts to rain, and the group must move inside.

It's these dynamics that have made polyamory, as longtime poly advocate Anita Wagner puts it, "the political football in the culture war as it relates to same-sex marriage." Polys themselves are not visibly crusading for their civil rights.