Thousands of unmarried couples who are living together in Florida may be surprised to learn that they are actually breaking the law. Under outdated and rarely enforced state laws that have been on the books since the late 1800s, “cohabitation” is actually a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by $500 or up to 60 days in jail. The same penalty applies to adultery – which one Florida woman tried to have enforced for her cheating husband in 2006.
The Sun Sentinel reports that one Florida Republican is commendably trying to repeal these irrelevant laws — only to be met with mass opposition from his fellow Republicans including Gov. Rick Scott (R). These social conservatives won’t support his effort to finally legalize a common practice and would prefer that official condemnation of couples “living in sin” stay enshrined in state law:
Now, Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, is on a mission to repeal the statutes penalizing adultery and cohabitation, as well as other laws he finds outdated, like a requirement that all bicycle riders keep one hand on the handle bars. [...]
Nobody else much wants to talk about it either.
Asked how Gov. Rick Scott felt about the measure, spokeswoman Amy Graham replied simply, “This isn’t an issue the governor is focused on.”
The bill has no Senate counterpart. And given the almost-certain opposition of social conservatives who lobby hard on “family values” issues, it’ll face tough sledding in an election year.
Consider the response of state Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who previously headed the Florida chapter of the Christian Coalition: “I’m not ready to give up on monogamy and a cultural statement that marriage still matters,” he said.
Cohabitation, especially among young couples, has become an increasing trend in recent years. The number of unmarried couples living together increased tenfold from 1960 to 2000, the U.S. Census says. It’s a practice that’s often derided by social conservatives, who fear that it is replacing traditional marriage.
However, maintaining the legal option of throwing these couples in jail seems a tad over-the-top, not to mention tragically out of touch with the reality of millions of Americans. In fact, one of Florida’s most prominent residents, NBA star LeBron James, is technically breaking the law by living in Miami with his high school sweetheart.