Are you living with your opposite-sex life partner but haven't gotten around to officially tying the knot? Well, guess what? You're a no-good common criminal in the eyes of the laws of the great state of Florida, you scumbag! Yep, shacking up without putting a ring on it first has been illegal in this state since 1868. According to the statute, violators can face a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.
Naturally, the law hasn't been enforced in modern times, but efforts to repeal the prudish law have gone nowhere for years, because, well, the Florida Legislature isn't that good at doing its job. A bill to repeal it last year quietly died in committee.
Well, Democratic Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda of Tallahassee has now already filed next year's version of the bill, and yesterday it passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
Because the bill does not apply to homosexual partners living together who haven't yet used their newly won right to get married, last year we joked that this bill technically was a form of discrimination against heterosexuals. With our tongue heavily in cheek, we suggested perhaps pointing out that fact might be the best way to get it passed in the Republican-controlled legislature, and, well, what do you know, Vasilinda is actually using that tactic.
Besides being impractical for police and courts to enforce in modern times, Rehwinkel Vasilinda pointed out that the statute does not apply to same-sex couples. She said that's a major reason why it is unjust and discriminatory. The latest census data shows nearly 37,000 same-sex couples in the state.
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Of course, two socially conservative Republicans voted against the bill in committee. Rep. Dennis Baxley, one dissenter, said he wasn't ready to give up "on the traditional concept of marriage."
This despite the fact that law is rarely enforced and a clear intrusion of government into the most basic components of people's personal lives.
Oh, and if there weren't enough obvious reasons to strike the law, perhaps you wouldn't be surprised to learn that it also has a history rooted in racism. Yep, throughout Florida's history, the law was selectively enforced to prevent interracial couples from living together, especially during the time when interracial marriage was illegal in the state.