Richmond, Virginia — The Virginia Senate Committee unanimously approved a bill this week that seeks to do away with parts of a state law criminalizing cohabitation.
Currently, only four states in the nation — Michigan, Mississippi, Virginia and Florida — have laws on the books prohibiting unmarried couples from living together. The Virginia statute dates back to 1877, making it a misdemeanor for “any persons, not married to each other, [to] lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together.” Violators could face up to a $500 fine or 60 days in jail.
The law has not been enforced in decades, according to reports.
However, Democratic state Senator Adam Ebbin of Alexandria and House Delegate Scott Surovell of Fairfax are now working to eradicate the law after learning that it had been used against a day care owner in the 1990’s. Ebbin says that the law needs to change with the times.
“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 told reporters. “It’s obviously an outdated vestige from a very different time.”
Republicans in the state have reportedly backed the repeal.
“Are you suggesting that perhaps things have changed since 1877?” Committee Chairman Senator Thomas Norment quipped to Ebbin.
“We’ve got to bring Virginia up to the 21st century whenever we can,” Ebbin stated.
The woman who almost lost her daycare license because of the law agreed.
“It’s an 1877 law. I think it’s time to revise that,” said Darlene Davis of Norfolk.
In the 1990’s, Davis, now 73, was warned by a state daycare inspector that she was violating the law when it was found that she had been living with her boyfriend of 16 years.
“She said, ‘You live in sin,’” Davis recounted.
However, the state backed down on the matter when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on Davis’ behalf.
Now, lawmakers are seeking to have the ordinance scrubbed from the books — or at least the parts of it with which they disagree. Ebbin and Surovell plan to leave in tact a section of the law prohibiting sexual activity in public. On Monday, Virginia’s Senate Committee approved the measure, sending it on to a full vote in the Senate, which is expected either today or tomorrow. If passed, it will then move the House.
Governor Bob McDonnell has not yet voiced his views on the matter, whether he will sign or veto the bill if it makes it to his desk. However, he did express disagreement with cohabitation years ago while a student at Pat Robertson’s Regent University. While running for governor in 2009, he was attacked by liberals for the text of a thesis he penned while a student, which stated that government policies should favor married couples over “cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators.”
“Virginia’s law against cohabitation was passed at a time when our leaders took seriously their God-given responsibilities to prohibit evil and promote righteousness,” Alex Mason, policy analyst for the Family Policy Network in Forest, Virginia, told Christian News Network. “Cohabitation is a perversion of God’s intended plan for men and women, and laws against cohabitation are intended to prick the consciences of those who engage in shameful sexual relations outside of the stability and security of the marriage relationship. To reverse Virginia’s legal stance against cohabitation is to legitimize and endorse that which God has called sin.”
He noted that Senator Adam Ebbin is the only openly homosexual legislator in the state, and that he “regularly proposes legislation designed to upend Biblical morality.”
“It’s a shame this legislator makes it such a high priority to do away with shame,” Mason said.