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Proposal Would Enable Unmarried Couples To Live Together Without Prosecution In Florida

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Men and women who live together as couples outside of marriage are breaking the law in Florida.

The state statute was enacted in 1868, and an effort is back in Tallahassee to repeal it.

A bill that would end the prohibition against men and women living together "lewdly and lasciviously" passed a House panel Wednesday.

Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Palatka, voted against the bill after asking the sponsor, "Why are you married?”

“Because we think it’s the right thing to do,” replied Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee,  of her marriage to husband Mike Vasilinda. She says the statute should be repealed because it’s discriminatory. She notes there is no ban against two men or two women doing the same thing.

“The government should not be peeking under the sheets frankly of its citizens, and it’s very impractical to know whether a man and a woman are living together platonically, romantically, and so on,” Rehwinkel Vasilinda said.

The proposal passed committees during the legislative session last spring but never made it to a final vote.

An analysis by House staff says violators of cohabitation laws are rarely prosecuted criminally. More often, the laws have been used in a civil context. For example, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation suspended a company’s liquor license in 1979 after finding that six employees were in violation of the cohabitation statute.

Michigan and Mississippi are the only other states that bar unmarried couples from living together.