Bill Seeks to End Heterosexual Discrimination in Florida

A representative heterosexual couple
A representative heterosexual couple
Photo by Muramasa | Wikicommons CC3.0

What else do you expect from a state that isn't sure if gay sex meets the legal definition of sex and let beastiality remain technically legal until 2011?

It's been technically illegal in Florida since the late 1800s for unrelated and unmarried man and woman to cohabitate. In fact, it's considered "lewd and lascivious behavior," and is punishable as a second-degree misdemeanor. Of course, no one has been prosecuted under the law in some time, but Florida politicians haven't scrubbed it from the books. Well, Democratic state Senator Eleanor Sobel is finally trying to change that.

Previous attempts to repeal the law have failed, but now that gay marriage is legal in the state, perhaps the only way for Sobel and supporters to get the attention of Florida's Republican majority is to present it as a clear case of discrimination against heterosexuals.

Sobel has filed Senate Bill 1078 which would repeal the law entirely. It currently reads as such:

If any man and woman, not being married to each other, lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together, or if any man or woman, married or unmarried, engages in open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, they shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

That means flagrant cohabitators could face a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 60 days in jail.

Notably, the bill says nothing of unmarried same-sex couples. They can live together all they want.

The bill was only filed yesterday, and even Sobel has remained mum, but the last series attempt to repeal the bill in 2011 was met with opposition from some socially conservative Republican lawmakers. Unlike that time around, the bill also involve the repeal of anti-adultery laws. (Yes, adultery is still illegal in Florida too.)

"I'm not ready to give up on monogamy and a cultural statement that marriage still matters," Rep. Dennis Baxley or Marion County told the Sun-Sentinel at the time. Baxley still serves in the House.

Of course, to get a bill passed in a body full of out-of-touch Republicans, one must think like an out-of-touch Republican. Simply point out that this bill discriminates against heterosexual couples, as gay couples are free to live together whether married or not. Let's see how fast they take up that issue.

Now, in the real world the notion of heterosexual discrimination is blatantly absurd, but the bill does have a history rooted in real discrimination ... as a lot of bills passed in Florida during the late 1800s tend to. It was often used to punish interracial couples, who were forbidden from marrying in Florida, from living together. Though, a related Florida law specifically outlawing interracial couples from living together was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1964.

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