Why on Earth Is It Illegal for Unmarried Couples to Live Together in Florida?

An antiquated law prohibits the cohabitation of unmarried couples in Florida. This is WEIRD.

Why on Earth Is It Illegal for Unmarried Couples to Live Together in Florida?

An antiquated law prohibits the cohabitation of unmarried couples in Florida. This is WEIRD.

-Lucia Peters


Does anyone else think it’s weird that it’s illegal to cohabit with your significant other in Florida? Because it’s true: Unmarried couples cannot legally live together in the state of Florida. What?!

According to the Sun Sentinel, cohabitation of unmarried people is a second-degree misdemeanor. The punishment for the crime? A fine of $500 or up to 60 days in jail. But that’s not all. Want to know the REALLY weird thing? This penalty is the same one that applies to adulterers. Exactly how living in an unmarried monogamous relationship is equitable to cheating on one’s spouse remains a mystery to me.

Or, y’know, how living with a roommate who happens to be the opposite sex fits into the issue. That’s a mystery, too. Want to room with your best friend who happens to be of the opposite gender as you? Sorry. Can’t do it. It’s against the law. Even if there’s no hanky-panky going on, you absolutely cannot have opposite-sex roommates. At least there’s some victory to be found in in this bizarre law, though; Jezebel noted that since it only applies to opposite-sex cohabitation, gay couples can freely and legally live together. Hoorah for loopholes!

Is the anti-cohabitation law antiquated? You betcha. It’s been around since the 1800s, and as we frequently find throughout history, there comes a point when we realize that things that might have made sense once upon a time no longer do. So, Rep. Ritch Workman has made it his mission to get rid of some of the weirder, outdated laws in Florida, including the anti-cohabitation one. Also on the docket are laws that require bicycle riders to keep one hand on the handle bars at all times (this makes sense from a safety standpoint, but come on. Doesn’t the law have more important things to be worrying about than bikers and their handle bars), as well as the one that makes adultery a punishable offense.

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Alas, it might take a while for Workman’s efforts to bear fruit—and there’s still the very real possibility that they won’t at all. Reactions have ranged from casual dismissal—Governor Rick Scott’s spokeswoman Amy Graham stated, “This isn’t an issue the governor is focused on”—to outright opposition—Rep. Dennis Baxley said, “I’m not ready to give up on monogamy and a cultural statement that marriage still matters.” It’s extremely likely that conservatives concerned with “family values” will lobby hard against Workman, ostensibly, speculated Jezebel, “to prevent Floridians from sinking into a state of moral depravity.”

And there’s another concern with this whole issue, as well. It has to do with that loophole I mentioned earlier. Part of me worries that even if Workman does manage to get the anti-cohabitation law repealed, someone somewhere in the state will figure out a way to reverse that loophole—that is, to make it illegal for gay couples to cohabit. If that happens, it’s a one-step-forward, two-steps-back situation, which is an incredibly depressing thought.

Then again, maybe I’m being too pessimistic about it. At least SOMEONE is trying to do something about silly laws that are at least 100 years out of date. Right?

Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.

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