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Ebbin Bill Would Legalize Unmarried Cohabitation in Va.

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.

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