Will this be the year lawmakers finally repeal the cohabitation law?
If you were to parse through the Florida statutes, there’s a very good chance you would find not only arcane laws, but also laws drafted and passed many years ago. While many of these old laws still have valid applications in 2015, others could kindly be described as being more than a bit outdated.
For instance, consider Florida’s law banning cohabitation. Drafted back in 1868, the law expressly prohibits unmarried men and women from living together, making it a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or 60 days in jail.
While there is little evidence to show that this law has been rigidly enforced by law enforcement officials at any point in time, it has long been in the crosshairs of state lawmakers.
Here the longstanding argument has been that the law 1) can serve as a tool for harassment — particularly for public officials, 2) is more than likely unconstitutional given the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Lawrence v. Texas., and 3) is simply a reflection of outdated mores.
In recent developments, it appears that the state’s cohabitation law may soon be a thing of the past, as the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee recently passed House Bill 4045, which calls for the repeal of that portion of the law outlawing living together as an unmarried couple.
Similarly, the Senate Criminal Justice Subcommittee passed Senate Bill 1078, which would also repeal the cohabitation language.
While it remains to be seen whether the legislation will pass, early indications are that lawmakers from both parties are prepared to support it. Indeed, if Florida’s cohabitation law is repealed, only two states — Mississippi and Michigan — will have such laws on their books.
Stay tuned for updates …
Sources: The Sun Sentinel, “Shacking up? It’s a crime in Florida,” Dan Sweeney, March 16, 2015; USA Today, “Fla. lawmakers work to abolish ‘living-in-sin’ law,” Sean Rossman, March 17, 2015