Shack Attack

Another Random Fancy from the “You Just Won’t Believe This” Department:

Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) signed 20 new laws in April including a bill that immediately repealed Florida’s 148-year-old ban on cohabitation. The Pillow Police are bereft.

§ 798.02 Lewd and lascivious behavior. — If any man and woman, not being married to each other, lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together, or if any man or woman, married or unmarried, engages in open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, they shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

Unmarried couples, polyamorists, and RWBs1 shacking up in Florida can now rest easy that their living arrangement is not breaking the law, thanks to the state’s Republican governor and co-sponsor Rep. Rick Stark (D-Weston).

Couple in BedThe law made it a second-degree misdemeanor for an unmarried man and woman to “lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together.” It has been on the books since 1868.

Because of its wording, §798.02 never applied to same-sex couples. Or goats.

The offense could be punished by up to 60 days in jail or a $500 fine.

Rep. Stark reported that police rarely, if ever, enforced the statute but that’s not true. Nearly 700 people were charged under the Florida law between 2005 and 2011 and 104 people faced charges in 2011 alone. (In 2005, Michigan’s cohabitation law was used to restrict visitation rights for a divorced father. The Virginia law was used to revoke a woman’s daycare license because she was cohabitating in the 1990s.)

I’ve always been proud that nearly 10% of Florida’s 46,105 sworn officers and state’s attorney investigators were part of the famed Panther’s Pillow Police.

Five conservative Republicans opposed repeal. Obviously conservative Republicans have a vested interest in continuing the Pillow Police. I haven’t quite figured out why, when eleven of this country’s 100 most dangerous cities are in Florida. Maybe they need the $500 fines to balance the budget.

Ironically “Virginia is for Lovers” waited until 2013 to repeal its cohabitation ban. 25 Virginia legislators — 21 Republicans, three Democrats and one independent — voted against the repeal. They needed the fines, too. Yeah, that’s it.

The unbelievable part of this story is that Florida was still one of three states with laws to prohibit unmarried cohabitation; Michigan and Mississippi remain.

1 Roomie With Benefits