Virginia Legislature Votes to End Criminalization of ‘Living in Sin’; Many Republicans Object
It went largely unnoticed last week when Virginia lawmakers voted to repeal a 19th century law banning cohabitation and sexual relations between unmarried adults.
But the real headline here is how 25 legislators– 21 Republicans, 3 Democrats and 1 independent– voted against the repeal.
SB 969, often referred to as the ‘love shack bill,’ eliminates the crime of “lewd and lascivious cohabitation.” It passed by a vote of 62-25, with 13 abstentions. Under the old law, which was passed in 1877:
“If any persons not married to each other lewd and lasciviously associate and cohabit together, or, whether married or not, be guilty of open and gross lewdness or lasciviousness, each of them shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor, and upon a repetition of the offense, and conviction thereof, each of them shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.”
According to Metro Weekly, such a ‘crime’ carried a punishment of a $500 fine for the first offense and up to a year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine for the second offense.
The part about “open and gross lewdness”– basically, sex in public– will stand.
The law was rarely enforced in modern times, although according to the Washington Post, it was invoked as recently as the 1990s to threaten the revocation of a daycare provider’s license because she was living with her boyfriend.
“It’s an 1877 law. I think it’s time to revise that,” 73-year-old Darlene K. Davis of Norfolk, the daycare provider who nearly lost her license two decades ago, told the Post.
SB 969 was co-sponsored by a pair of Democrats representing Washington, DC suburbs, Sen. Adam Ebbin (Alexandria) and Del. Scott Surovell (Fairfax).
“I learned of [the cohabitation ban] last year and thought that it was not only unnecessary but bizarre that Virginia would still have on its book a law outlawing consenting adults from living together,” Ebbin told the Post. “It’s obviously an outdated vestige from a very different time.”
But clearly, many Virginia lawmakers did not agree. So, who are the 25 elected officials who voted to keep ‘living in sin’ a criminal offense in 2013? Here’s a full list:
DEMOCRATS: Del. Johnny S. Joannu; Del. Joseph P. Johnson, Jr.; Del. Lionell Spruill, Sr.
INDEPENDENT: Del. Lacey E. Putney
REPUBLICANS: Del. Richard P. Bell; Del. Robert B. Bell; Del. Ben Cline; Del. Mark L. Cole; Del. James E. Edmunds II; Del. T. Scott Garrett; Del. Todd Gilbert; Del. Christopher T. Head; Del. Gordon C. Helsel, Jr.; Del. R. Steven Landes; Del. Daniel W. Marshall; Del. Robert G. Marshall; Del. J. Randall Minchew; Del. Brenda L. Pogge; Del. Charles D. Poindexter; Del. David I. Ramadan; Del. Margaret B. Ransone; Del. Beverly J. Sherwood; Del. R. Lee Ware, Jr.; Del. Tony O. Wilt; Del. Thomas C. Wright, Jr.
If you think that Virginia is the last state to ban ‘living in sin,’ think again– Florida, Michigan and Mississippi still have anti-cohabitation statutes on the books.
The bill now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, who says he supports ending the cohabitation ban.
The Virginia vote came during the same week that Mississippi officially ratified the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, officially ending slavery in the state 147 years after the measure became the law of the land.
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