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Ebbin Bill Would Legalize Unmarried Cohabitation in Va.

by ARLnow.com — January 15, 2013 at 10:30 am 4,709 80 Comments

Del. Adam Ebbin (D) speaks at GMU Law anti-discrimination rallyTechnically, in Virginia, it’s illegal for an unmarried couple to live together. State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) is hoping to finally change that.

A law against “lewd and lascivious cohabitation” has been on the books in Virginia since the 19th century. Currently, § 18.2-345 of Virginia code specifies that “If any persons, not married to each other, lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together… each of them shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor” — punishable by a fine up to $500.

A quick internet search reveals that talk of repealing the archaic law dates back to at least 1981, when the University of Virginia’s Cavalier Daily talked to a local prosecutor who attributed “the statute’s permanence… to the reluctance of members of the Legislature to stand up and ask for its repeal.” In 2005, USA Today noted that Virginia was one of seven states that still prohibited unmarried cohabitation.

The law rarely if ever results in arrests these days, although it was the subject of a 1973 Virginia Supreme Court case. According to USA Today, cohabitation laws usually only come up when they’re “cited by landlords as a reason for not renting to cohabiting couples or by government agencies refusing licenses.”

Ebbin, who represents Arlington and Alexandria, is hoping to take lewd and lascivious cohabitation off the books once and for all this year. Ebbin has introduced a bill, SB 969, that would eliminate unmarried cohabitation as a crime in Virginia.

The bill is expected to be heard by a state Senate committee Wednesday afternoon, according to the watchdog website Richmond Sunlight.

The Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has expressed support for Ebbin’s bill. Ebbin’s office has not responded to a request for comment.

  • WeiQiang

    what?? i was unaware of this. please keep the authorities occupied with Corinthian Construction and off my back. it’s funny, the state never seemed to have a problem processing our mortgage documents.

    • Tumblebum

      Back in the late 60s an Arlington Circuit court judge sentenced a woman to jail when it was revealed in court that she was living with a guy. It was featured in the next edition of Playboy and became a national story.
      As an aside, that judge’s son became an astronaut and was killed in one of the shuttle tragedies.

    • AL

      HA!

  • FREDTERP

    What if unmarried couples live together but are not lewd and lascivious . FREDTERP

    • WeiQiang

      not possible. unmarried couples ONLY engage in lewd and lascivious behavior. the guys in Richmond say so.

    • drax

      Why do you always use a period for a question mark and vice versa, like this.

      • Josh S

        I always think of FREDTERP as being kind of like the crazy neighbor in Plants vs. Zombies. So, syntax isn’t exactly a strong suit.

        • b0rk

          That’s funny, I picture him as an 80-year-old with an Internet Explorer full of advertisement bars and pop-ups.

  • SomeGuy

    Ebbin…is hoping to take lewd and lascivious off the books once and for all this year.

    “Lewd” and “lascivious” are two great words. I predict he’ll face a tougher fight taking them off the books of Merriam-Webster and the OED than he will getting them off Virginia’s law books.

  • Really?

    Man I’m glad the local politicians don’t have any more important things to be doing…

    • WeiQiang

      where were you in 2006 when the pols in Richmond created this gem:

      “Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions. This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.”

      technically, my partner and i are violating the law … i’d like to see the law changed, as a start.

      • Deadite

        That law is awful and an embarassment.

        • drax

          Hey, we agree on something!

        • CourthouseChris

          Whoa, this must not be the real deadite.

          • Deadite

            Always been liberal on social issues, guys. And in this case I wouldn’t even call my viewpoint liberal, but instead just plain common sense.

          • drax

            Nope, it’s liberal. You can’t just redefine liberal positions you agree with as not liberal. Simply admit that you have some liberal viewpoints. Doesn’t make you a liberal on everything. This isn’t about labels, just issues.

          • Deadite

            Sorry, d-rax, but I consider the government NOT inserting itself into the question of who can and cannot get married to be common sense. Placing selective bans and restrictions on such freedoms amounts to fascism.

            And BTW – I identify myself as a liberal, and have voted D in every presidential election. It’s runaway spending that scares me crapless, but in your book that makes me a registered Republican, I suppose. And what’s your deal with throwing a hissy fit about everything I say? Get off my nuts.

          • Deadite

            “This isn’t about labels, just issues.”

            Says the guy who erroneously tries to paint me as a conservative. Get over yourself.

          • The Wolfe

            @Deadite: “Sorry, d-rax, but I consider the government NOT inserting itself into the question of who can and cannot get married to be common sense. Placing selective bans and restrictions on such freedoms amounts to fascism.”

            Ties back in the Loving case.

            I have two friends, one white Christian and liberal; the other is African American, Christian, and tends towards the conservative side.

            Both are good men and Christian in the good sense.

            Both oppose gay marriage.

            The white Christian supports civil unions but opposes a church ceremony. As I told him “if you don’t want gays to get married in your church, change churches”.

            Heck, the National Cathedral announced it would perform same-sex ceremonies.

            My African American friend opposes any form of same-sex union. Paraphrasing him, he cites the Levitical code. It’s an abominiation.

            I’ve tried to engage him with the Loving case but no dice.

            I got married on the beach in Key West, FL, by Captain Orrin Opperman, Notary Public. I pulled the license from the Key West Court House. No clergy were involved.

            When I returned to work I added my wife to my medical insurance (so she could drop her coverage), quadrupled my life insurance and made her the beneficiary.

            I see no reason why two consenting adults who choose to enter a contractual agreement should be discriminated against.

            Both my Christian friends are for gun confiscation. I’m pretty certain neither has ever fired a weapon.

            P.S. No longer married. Of course her first one didn’t last either.

          • drax

            So you’re saying that liberals often are on the side of common sense, Deadite?

            Okay, whatever.

            This simply proves that throwing labels around is silly. Both sides shouldn’t do that.

          • drax

            So you’re saying you’re NOT a conservative, Deadite?

            Fine.

            That’s my point. Labels are useless.

      • ustoo

        +1000

    • Skeptical

      If there is a ridiculous law on the books that could be used to harass people, it ought to go. This falls under the rubric of house cleaning and seems to me a perfectly legitimate thing to be doing. Makes a lot more sense than spending days in the General Assembly on a plan to harass women in doctors’ offices.

    • Yes, Really!

      Better than another court case that would show this to be unconstitutional under Lawrence vs. Texas.

    • CW

      @Really – did you say the same thing about Jim Crow laws?

  • Lewd&Lascivious

    In Newport News there’s a law that says that 4 or more unrelated women cannot live together or the residence is considered a brothel! A lot of landlords down there use it as an excuse not to rent to college students. These archaic laws should just be wiped out.

    • I could be wrong

      But I think that’s a VA state law… again, I could be wrong but I’ve heard of it in other VA counties as well, so I don’t think it’s just the News that’s got the rule. Crazy, right?

      Separately, I hope my father doesn’t read this law… he’d love a good reason to get my bf kicked out of my apartment hahaha! But until then, half of my rent is covered in this crazy expensive town, so keep this on the DL please. ;-)

    • SHLady

      That law is an urban legend, told in pretty much every college town. It’s not on the books anywhere.

      • Not Urban Legend

        This is not an urban legend– a group of Georgetown students was actually brought to court on this several years ago: http://www.washingtonian.com/articles/people/georgetown-apostles-rub-neighbors-the-wrong-way/

        The neighbors ended up winning and the number of unrelated occupants was reduced.

        • drax

          That involves unrelated roommates. This legend refers to unrelated women only. The G-town law is designed to keep out obnoxious college students, not prostitutes. Though they sometimes overlap.

  • UrbanLegend

    Unless you can point to an official document, that’s an urban legend.

    http://www.snopes.com/college/halls/brothel.asp

    • travis

      pretty sure the linked piece of the state code in the story is an official document.

      http://vacode.org/18.2-345/

      • FrenchyB

        The linked statute makes no reference to brothels.

      • drax

        Travis, this is the law against living together unmarried. It’s not a law forbidding multiple women from living together. That’s the urban legend he was referring to. UrbanLegend needs to learn how to reply to messages properly.

  • JimPB

    This ancient law is just one of a staggering number of irrelevant laws that, in a rational world, should be repealed. However, early in his political career, a certain Democrat from Massachusetts with the initials MD who eventually became his party’s nominee for President of the United States, acting with the height of rationality, undertook to get such laws repealed. The blow back almost derailed his political career.

    • WeiQiang

      … something he did anyhow by riding around in a tank.

      • ironicNo?

        while now anyone can buy a hummer and show how unhip they are.

  • Sunshine

    Uh, oh. I broke the law….

  • Sexpert

    But Fornication is still illegal in Virginia.

    § 18.2-344 Fornication. Any person, not being married, who voluntarily shall have sexual intercourse with any other person, shall be guilty of fornication, punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor.

    http://vacode.org/18.2-344/

    • Max

      isn’t that technically unenforceable because of Lawrence v. Texas?

  • CW

    You think that’s a hoot? Check out 18.2-344 . Drive the paddy wagon up to the clarendon ballroom and round them up!

  • fedworker

    We have laws on the books that we don’t enforce? Shocking.

  • Hank

    Juh-oh, I lived with my sister for a couple of years. It’s a good thing we rarely “lewdly and lasciviously associate[d]” with one another.

    • Eh

      Eh… rarely?!

      • jackson

        Just on the solstice. And Tuesdays.

        • Hank

          We had a name for those… Slippery Solstices. Great times!

  • FreakEconomist22204

    Although I agree it should officially be off the books and applaud Adam Ebbin for doing so, it appears that VA Statute § 36-96.6 from the Commonwealth of VA tacitly overturned, at the Commonwealth level, most of the cohabitation-related covenants in housing documents based on non-family/non-married status. In addition, Arlington County Code below also applies and is more protective of the property rights of owners situated in Arlington County.
    VA Statute overturning (voiding) any Restrictive Covenant restricting occupancy based on Family Status -
    § 36-96.6. Certain restrictive covenants void; instruments containing such covenants.
    A. Any restrictive covenant and any related reversionary interest, purporting to restrict occupancy or ownership of property on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, elderliness, familial status, or handicap, whether heretofore or hereafter included in an instrument affecting the title to real or leasehold property, are declared to be void and contrary to the public policy of this Commonwealth. (found at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+36-96.6 )
    Three (3) Arlington County Ordinances Dealing with Cohabitation and Familial Status
    Further, in Arlington County, the follow additional Arlington County Ordinances pertain as well:
    (1) The Arlington County Human Rights Ordinance prohibits discrimination in residential housing based on sexual orientation, race, color, sex, marital status, religion, national origin, elderliness, disability (physical or mental) or familial status of the home seeker. (found at http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/CPHD/housing/housing_info/CPHDHousingHousing_infoFairHousing.aspx )
    and in Arlington County the Zoning Ordinance (ACZO) defines family as:
    (2) Family:
    (a) An individual, or two (2) or more persons related by blood, marriage or adoption, or under approved foster care; or
    (b) A group of not more than four (4) persons (including servants) whether or not related by blood or marriage living together and sharing living areas in a dwelling unit;
    (Found in definitions at http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/CPHD/planning/zoning/pdfs/Ordinance_Section1.pdf )
    and finally,
    (3) The County Zoning Ordinance limits occupancy of any dwelling unit to four unrelated persons or one family. (page 13 of http://www.arlingtonva.us/Departments/CPHD/Documents/1551tl_handbook.pdf ).

    • drax

      This isn’t about covenants, it’s about the criminal code.

    • CW

      The citation to 36-96.6 is cool, but I don’t think it overrides what is being discussed here at 18.2-345. The statute you refer to talks about “restrict[ion] of occupancy or ownership of property” based on “family status”. I do not believe that “family status”, which is just that – a status – is legally equivalent to “lewd and lascivious cohabitation”, which is an act. You can have people of an unmarried “family status” prevented from having their occupancy or ownership restricted, but they could still be guilty of lewdly and lasciviously cohabitating. Right?

  • Hank

    Well, it wasn’t an everyday thing. But I’m not going to lie and say that absolutely *no* lewd or lascivious associations occurred between my sister and me. Just occasionally.

    • malaka

      I’m pretty sure that’s still OK where you are from – in West Virginia.

  • Malaka

    It’s time for an unmarried couple roundup!

    • drax

      Well done. One full FREDTERP is awarded to you.

  • John

    It is Virginia you know, the most anti-everything state. Immagine if this rediuclous law was strictly enforced? Statistically in northern VA alone, I can only imagine what the stats would show. Bravo.. Bravo..

  • drax

    Hey steve? You were saying only liberals interfere in people’s personal lives?

    • perplexed

      I am pretty sure that you are not allowed to challenge steve-o on this site.

    • Jack

      Agreed, I think you can only challange yourself.

    • novasteve

      Drax: Was any virginia conservative alive today alive when this law was passed? Again, why do liberals only care about sex based rights while they take away the ability to choose anything else?

      • Hee-Haw

        This bill kind of makes sense though, right ?

        • drax

          Just looked – the latest version of this law was passed in 1960.

          So yeah, some of them are still alive after all.

          Why do conservatives want to take away our freedom? Why do they intrude in our most personal decisions?

          • drax

            Correction – it was modified as late as 1975!

          • novasteve

            Then it was passed by democrats, drax.

          • novasteve

            Drax, democrats controlled the house of delegates ever since reconstruction until 1999 or so. So these laws were passed by democrats.

          • Historian

            In virginia in 1960 Democrat and conservative were not mutually exclusive.

            You really should learn some of the political history of the Commonwealth if you are going to comment here about politics

          • drax

            CONSERVATIVE Democrats, steve. Read your history. Southern Democrats at that time were not a bunch of liberals.

          • Ricardo

            The men in my family tend to die young. It is rational for me to want to spend my money now, rather than save for a retirement that will never come. But Social Security laws–typically championed by liberals–prevent me from doing so. That also amounts to taking away a freedom.

            Of course, your example is also a good one. I just think it applies to liberals as well as conservatives.

          • The Wolfe

            Dear people. I graduated from T.C. Williams in June of 1975,

            I went to Minnie Howard Middle School. I was supposed to graduate to T.C. after the 8th grade.

            Instead court-ordered integration took place. This was 1971. Ya hear me troops?

            Nineteen hunnert and sevenny one.

            T.C. Williams was turned into a two year senior high. Frances C. Hamond and George Washington high schools, respectively white and black, were turned into junior high schools, freshman and sophomores only.

            Heck, most of the *real* southern states already had integration of a sort. Which meant that the rich white folks put their kids into private schools.

            Virginia/Richmond had a campaign of “massive resistance”. Google it.

            Half of my friends from Minnie Howard middle got sent to Catholic schools to ride out the storm. Including some of Hebraic descent.

            I’ve rocked this state north to south, east to west. You can find kindness, gentility, racism and sexism co-existing within a ZIP code.

            In other words, Virginia is no different from any other place.

          • drax

            Ricardo, I’m not saying one side is always right. I’m disputing steve’s claim that one side is always right.

            As for Social Security, it’s an insurance program, not a retirement plan. If you manage to live long, it will be there for you even if you spent all your money early expecting to die early instead of saving it up. That’s the point of it.

          • Ricardo

            @drax–

            Agreed that both sides deserve some criticism. I was reacting to your comment that “conservatives want to take away our freedom”… I think both liberals and conservatives tend to want to do that.

            I would like to opt out of the “insurance program” and keep the ~12% payroll deduction for myself, to spend in any way I see fit. Unfortunately I am not allowed to do so.

  • PikeHoo

    Virginia is supposed to be for lovers. F this.

  • novasteve

    Dont zoning rules violate some of the things that arlington prohibits? I mean if you had 20 unrelated people living in a home, it would be cheaper. But zoning wouldn’t allow that.

    • Babby

      yikes! This comment makes no sense.

  • Sebastian Melmoth

    well that sucks, if he takes it off the books then it won’t be much fun to do it anymore.

  • Max

    I’m probably wrong about this, but wasn’t this law the justification for police entering the home of the Loving’s that resulted in Loving v. Virginia.

  • Mary-Austin

    SB 969!…perrrrfect

  • The Wolfe

    The Loving case was under the miscegenation laws. 1967. I was ten at the time.

    Funny thing, they were sentenced to a year in prison for marrying, not co-habituating.

    In 1972, and I can not recall the names involved, in Presidential Gardens in Arlandria, a man and a woman, not married but definitely co-habituating (both names were on the lease, a rarity in those days) were reported for committing “an indecent act”.

    For doing what they both found enjoyable the male drew a one year sentence. Under the anti-sodomy laws.

    The neighbor who reported them must have stood on a milk-crate outside the window, or had one heckuva set of binoculars.

    I think the anti-sodomy law, like the cohabitation statute, is still on the books.

    60% of the people I know, most of ‘em North Arlington rednecks, are violating the cohabitation rule. Some of ‘em for upwards of 20 years with the same spousal-like appendage.

    I’m not inclined to check on their violation of the sodomy law. It’s their business and I sure as heck ain’t interested..

  • http://www.sodomy.org/laws/virginia/ The Wolfe

    Here’s the citation.

  • Sheri Puryear

    After this story broke, my ex-husband went to the Hanover J&DR courts to file a motion seeking full custody based on the fact that I am living with someone whom I am not married to who is 55 years old (I’m 42). This is absolutely unconstitutional.
    Unmarried couples in Virginia that are raising children together are within their constitutional rights to cohabitate together so says the Supreme Court of the United States (Lawrence vs. Texas 2003 ruling) and the Virginia Supreme Court (Martin vs. Ziherl 2005 ruling). Both of these landmark cases make it clear that it is unconstitutional for government to regulate relationships between two consenting adults in the privacy of their own home. A parent should not have their custody/visitation challenged in a court simply because of whom they choose to live with, especially when there is absolutely no evidence of harm being done to their children. The non-traditional family has become the traditional family. Here in Virginia, children are being raised by two dads, two moms, and in my case, a heterosexual couple. Decisions in child custody/visitation cases should not simply be based on the J&DR judge’s moral convictions, but rather what is in the best interest of the children. In his first Vatican press conference since his appointment as the Catholic Church’s “minister” for family, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia conceded that the numbers of non-traditional families are growing and there should be “private law solutions” to “prevent injustices and make their life easier.” While some Americans may still consider living together out of wedlock to be a sin, every American is within their constitutional rights to do so, so says the United States Constitution. Amen

  • Sheri Werner Puryear

    Unmarried couples in Virginia that are raising children together are within their constitutional rights to cohabitate together so says the Supreme Court of the United States (Lawrence vs. Texas 2003 ruling) and the Virginia Supreme Court (Martin vs. Ziherl 2005 ruling). Both of these landmark cases make it clear that it is unconstitutional for government to regulate relationships between two consenting adults in the privacy of their own home. A parent should not have their custody/visitation challenged in a court simply because of whom they choose to live with, especially when there is absolutely no evidence of harm being done to their children. The non-traditional family has become the traditional family. Here in Virginia, children are being raised by two dads, two moms, and in my case, a heterosexual couple. Decisions in child custody/visitation cases should not simply be based on the J&DR judge’s moral convictions, but rather what is in the best interest of the children. In his first Vatican press conference since his appointment as the Catholic Church’s “minister” for family, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia conceded that the numbers of non-traditional families are growing and there should be “private law solutions” to “prevent injustices and make their life easier.” While some Americans may still consider living together out of wedlock to be a sin, every American is within their constitutional rights to do so, so says the United States Constitution. Amen

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