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Virginia May Legalize Shacking Up

law-books

Since 1877, it has been illegal for unmarried Virginia couples to cohabitate. That may soon change.

WaPo (“Bill would legalize cohabitation in Virginia“):

A law dating to the late 19th-century makes it a misdemeanor for “any persons, not married to each other, [to] lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together.”

Probably no one has been prosecuted under the law for decades, but state officials used it as recently as the early 1990s to threaten revocation of a daycare provider’s state license, said Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who has brought the bill with Del Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax). The measure comes before a Senate committee Monday.

“It’s an 1877 law. I think it’s time to revise that,” said Darlene K. Davis, 73, of Norfolk, who nearly lost her daycare license after a state inspector learned she and her boyfriend of 16 years lived together.

“She said, ‘You live in sin,’” Davis said.

The state backed down nine months after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on her behalf, Davis said.

“I learned of it last year and thought that it is not only unnecessary but bizarre that Virginia would still have on its book a law essentially outlawing consenting adults from living together,” Ebbin said. “It’s obviously an outdated vestige from a very different time.”

Ebbin said only three other states still have cohabitation laws on the books: Mississippi, Michigan and Florida.

Laws should come with sunset provisions that require them to be passed again by the legislature from time to time. Otherwise, absurd old laws remain on the books largely unenforced but available to authorities to use selectively.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. HelloWorld! says:

    What an outrage. At least they are still prventing gays from seeing each other in the hospital, leaving property to each other, and having any kind of legal recognition. I am so glad they even prevent gys from entering into a mutual contract. Completely protects everyone (I’m being sarcastic)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. Tony W says:

    Maybe by 2157 or so they’ll be ready for interracial marriage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Otherwise, absurd old laws remain on the books largely unenforced but available to authorities to ABuse selectively.

    ftfy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    All laws should come with sunset provisions? Really? Hmm. Would that include the federal income tax code? How about Social Security? Medicare and Medicaid? Obamacare? I’m all for that idea, but given the demographics of it all obviously the chattering classes would fight tooth and nail against it.

    Speaking of which, what’s funny about these sorts of vestige laws is that a liberal could read that story, appropriately scoff at the sheer absurdity of it all, recognize the utter unenforceability, and then in the very next breath, without even grasping the irony, advocate for laws which for example ban possession in the home of firearms and certain ammunition or which mandate that people purchase a commercial product to cover damages to their own person. Glug, glug.

    In any case, vestige laws are not proof that all laws require sunset provisions. That’s a paint job with waaaay too broad of a brush. They’re proof of the legal soundness and the practical necessity of prosecutorial discretion and having elected prosecutors who must stand for reelection.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 15

  5. Franklin says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: All laws should come with sunset provisions? Really? Hmm. Would that include the federal income tax code? How about Social Security? Medicare and Medicaid? Obamacare?

    Presumably the sunset provision could be adjusted in a rational manner, so I don’t really have a problem with any of these being re-evaluated periodically (maybe every decade, maybe more). On the other hand, laws against rape and murder should probably have a longer sunset provision.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  6. ernieyeball says:

    Some laws have statutes of limitations that are making old cases of child molestation impossible to prosecute. Apparently there is no statute of limitations on murder in any US State. I’m not so sure that blanket “sunset provisions” are a great idea.

    Presumably the sunset provision could be adjusted in a rational manner,..

    We are dealing with Federal and State Legislatures here that are representimg political factions. I guess we can all hope for the best.

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  7. dennis says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Ya see, T-Nic? I stick my neck out for you on another post, and then you come up with stuff like this. SMH.

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  8. carpeicthus says:

    My guess is Tsar wrote the first and thirs paragraphs first and then realized he hadn’t said anything stupid, so he had to remedy his mistake.

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