Sean Rossman, Tallahassee Fla. Democrat12:45 p.m. EDT March 17, 2015
The 1868 law, which seems to not have been enforced, still could slap those living in sin with a second-degree misdemeanor.
(Photo: Getty Images)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Believe it or not, in spite of all the shacking up going on, and living together as an unmarried couple is still against the law in Florida.
But don't break the lease quite yet.
Two legislative committees approved the repeal of a nearly 150-year-old state law that says unmarried men and women cannot live together under the same roof. The 1868 law, which seems to not have been enforced, still could slap those living in sin with a second-degree misdemeanor.
On Monday, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee approved Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda's House Bill 4045, which would repeal the part of a Florida statute that makes it a crime "If any man and woman, not being married to each other, lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together."
The bill now moves to a second House committee.
Rehwinkel Vasilinda, a Tallahassee Democrat, said current law makes it illegal for people to have male-female roommates, even without the romance.
"The statute, as it's written, looks as if you could be arrested on a second-degree misdemeanor for merely living with a person of the opposite sex," she said.
Not everybody is ready to move in with the bill.
GOP Rep. Charles Van Zant of Palatka, Fla., voted against it, citing scripture. God's first institution was marriage, which didn't involve cohabitation, he said.
Rehwinkel Vasilinda has heard from a range of people on her proposal, from young people with roommates to the elderly constituents living together to save money. Besides removing the dated law, she introduced the bill to take advantage of a new House rule that allows members to strike parts of a law.
She finds the rest of the statute appropriate and therefore didn't propose doing away with all of it.
But a similar bill, Senate Bill 1078, introduced by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Democrat from Hollywood, Fla., would repeal the entire statute, which also includes a prohibition on married or unmarried men and women engaging "in open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior."
The Senate Criminal Justice Subcommittee unanimously approved that bill, which has two more committee stops.
Only three states — Florida, Michigan and Mississippi — have laws making cohabitation illegal, according to an analysis by Sobel's staff, which cited the National Conference of State Legislatures.