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"An archaic, vestigial piece of ridiculousness."
July 21, 2006 10:19 AM   Subscribe

A judge has thrown out a 201-year-old North Carolina law making it illegal for unmarried couples to live together. The case was previously discussed here.
posted by EarBucket (53 comments total)

 
This is an outrage. Someone must stop these liberal activist judges.
posted by psmealey at 10:21 AM on July 21, 2006


I would like to see the studies cited by the person who said that couples who cohabitated prior to marriage were more likely to divorce. I had been under the impression that the large majority of studies found the opposite.

Still, this is a good ruling, and I hope it doesn't get appealed or overturned.
posted by internet!Hannah at 10:24 AM on July 21, 2006


But people who live together before they are married might have sex. It's a very real possibility. What will Alabama do now? What will they do?

Let us all pray.
posted by chunking express at 10:28 AM on July 21, 2006


...I hope it doesn't get appealed or overturned.

It won't. Not much to discuss here really.
posted by Witty at 10:28 AM on July 21, 2006


And by Alabama, I do mean North Carolina. We should pray for everyone I suppose.
posted by chunking express at 10:28 AM on July 21, 2006


Couples who marry are 100% more likely to divorce. Divorce doesn't kill marriages - marriages do! There is only one way to save this sacred institution - we must kill it before it can commit suicide!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:29 AM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


I didn't even know this was illegal anywhere. I mean in the western world. (I'm kind of shocked at how naive I was to think that it was nobody's business who you live with.) Crazy!
posted by easternblot at 10:35 AM on July 21, 2006


There should be a law making it illegal for jowly white men over the age of 60 to have a stern countenance.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:42 AM on July 21, 2006 [4 favorites]


I'm amazed by this as well.. I know a lot of states have some really old socially conservative laws, but this takes the cake. How could you even enforce this? It'd be like locking someone up for being gay. Or for being with someone who isn't in your ethnic group.

.. oh, wait...
posted by triolus at 10:43 AM on July 21, 2006


I didn't even know this was illegal anywhere.
Surprisingly, it's on the books in a variety of ways in some states. In 2003, when I lived with my partner in Florida, we consulted an accountant regarding our filing status. Given she was in school, was of the proper age, and met all income guidelines, I was under the impression that I could claim her as a dependant. The accountant informed us that in some other states that this was possible, but because of an old law that made cohabitation by unmarried couples illegal I could not do so in the state of Florida. He then explained that this law had not been enforced for a long time, but was left on the books as a tax incentive for marriage.
posted by sequential at 10:43 AM on July 21, 2006


Does anyone know what the law actually said?

Was it OK to live with someone you weren't having sex with? Was it legal to live with someone you weren't in love with? Would it be legal for, say, a brother and a sister to live under the same roof, or was that forbidden, too?

How exactly do you write such a law without a ton of stupid unintended consequences?
posted by Western Infidels at 10:46 AM on July 21, 2006


201 years ago folks.
posted by Witty at 10:49 AM on July 21, 2006


There should be a law making it illegal for jowly white men over the age of 60 to have a stern countenance.

They'd better not, Pastabagel. Look for my stern jowls sometime around 2040.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:54 AM on July 21, 2006


What will Alabama do now?

I think Alabama should invade Canada (AKA France's little sister). Shouldn't take more than a few of our National Guardsmen, and then we can all have beaver pelts!
posted by tadellin at 10:56 AM on July 21, 2006


I am glad to see another nanny state law struck down. Why do people hate freedom?
posted by caddis at 11:03 AM on July 21, 2006


I know a lot of states have some really old socially conservative laws, but this takes the cake. How could you even enforce this?

You couldn't. That's exactly why old laws like this are still in effect. No one enforces them, so they can't possibly get challenged in court. There's a whole bunch of similar dumb laws at dumblaws.com.
posted by scottreynen at 11:04 AM on July 21, 2006


sequential's only scratched the surface. If unmarried couples were prmitted to rent/lease together, folks might feel inclined to experiment with...notions of rent control.
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:06 AM on July 21, 2006


And by Alabama, I do mean North Carolina. We should pray for everyone I suppose.
posted by chunking express


Don't worry 'bout it chunking. Alabama, North Carolina, Florida, it's all the same. Don't stress your brain trying to see them as individual states.
posted by justgary at 11:07 AM on July 21, 2006


Alabama, North Carolina, Florida, it's all the same. Don't stress your brain trying to see them as individual states.

If you actually believe that then you haven't spent very much time in any of them, I assure you.
posted by glenwood at 11:10 AM on July 21, 2006


Couples who marry are 100% more likely to divorce.

Put more clearly, married people account for 100% of all divorces.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:14 AM on July 21, 2006


glenwood, I think justgary was being funny and making fun of me.
posted by chunking express at 11:14 AM on July 21, 2006


I do not wish to be put more clearly. Obscurity is my only defense.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:16 AM on July 21, 2006


Also 100% of all spousal abuse and 100% of all marital infidelity. It's a scourge, I tell you.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:17 AM on July 21, 2006


Ok. Sorry I missed the context. We blue-county southerners can be awful jittery and defensive sometimes.
posted by glenwood at 11:18 AM on July 21, 2006


I would like to see the studies cited by the person who said that couples who cohabitated prior to marriage were more likely to divorce.

The CDC released the results of its Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the United States (5M PDF) study in 1998. Among many other things, it points out that that there's a nine percentage-point difference in the rate of divorce in the first ten years for spouses who cohabited before marriage compared to those who didn't. It's not a huge difference, granted, and it's disputed.
posted by Plutor at 11:23 AM on July 21, 2006


Also 100% of all marital relations. Mothersinlaw, for the less interesting example.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:23 AM on July 21, 2006


In 2003, when I lived with my partner in Florida, we consulted an accountant regarding our filing status.

But you'd just go by federal regulations, anyway, wouldn't you, since you're filing a federal tax return?
posted by oaf at 11:33 AM on July 21, 2006


I would like to see the studies cited by the person who said that couples who cohabitated prior to marriage were more likely to divorce. I had been under the impression that the large majority of studies found the opposite.

Still, this is a good ruling, and I hope it doesn't get appealed or overturned.
posted by internet!Hannah at 10:24 AM PST on July 21


Sorry, but you heard wrong. Sociological studies have shown over and over that couples who cohabit before marriage are more likely to divorce. There are various theories for why this is. As one example, the super-uptight, no-hanky-panky-before-marriage crowd are less likely to divorce later because, well gosh, they made a commitment before GOD! In a church! They might go to hell if they get divorced!

Not that any statistical fact gives the state a right to manage peoples' private lives.

What a screwy country this is, where homosexual couples who want to marry can't, and heterosexual couples who don't want to marry are legally required to.
posted by Marla Singer at 11:33 AM on July 21, 2006


I am proud to have broken that law for the entire four years that I lived in North Carolina, even though I didn't know it existed until today.

When we were first looking for housing, we looked at an apartment managed by a property company that displayed a sign in their offices that said: Property Company will not rent to unmarried couples. I always wondered how they could do that, and I guess this explains it.
posted by jennyb at 11:44 AM on July 21, 2006


Sociological studies have shown over and over that couples who cohabit before marriage are more likely to divorce.

Please cite one.

I'm not being bitchy; I would actually like to see one. I've always been curious.
posted by Zozo at 11:44 AM on July 21, 2006


Does anyone know what the law actually said?

Here's the law. "If any man and woman, not being married to each other, shall lewdly and lasciviously associate, bed and cohabit together, they shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor"

What's interesting, looking at the history of it, is that it was revised in some way as late as 1994, which means it's not like it's been sitting there unnoticed since 1805.
posted by JanetLand at 11:44 AM on July 21, 2006


Oh: please make sure you're citing one that proves that the cohabitation is what causes the divorce. Thanks.
posted by Zozo at 11:45 AM on July 21, 2006


Can gay couples cohabit?
posted by sfts2 at 11:48 AM on July 21, 2006


No one is saying that it causes divorce, but I too have seen these studies that show higher rates of divorce for couples that cohabit prior to marriage. I am not going search for one for you though.
posted by caddis at 11:59 AM on July 21, 2006


My second comment was bitchy, and I apologize. I've honestly never seen a study that even correlated the two, but I may not have been looking hard enough.

Marla's aside about the super-uptight is in line with the research I've seen: that those who are willing to cohabitate are probably more open to the idea of divorce if the marriage goes poorly, as opposed to those who object to either regardless of circumstance; I've just never seen proof that it actually affected statistics.

Couples who cohabitate premaritally may be more likely to divorce, but premarital cohabitation doesn't make a couple more likely to divorce.

You hear that, Mom? Stop calling me.
posted by Zozo at 12:05 PM on July 21, 2006


I read an article about this decision the other day that mentioned that Michigan was one of only seven states that still had a cohabitation law on the books.

I find a perverse satisfaction in the fact that while I lived in that state for almost 3 years under the same roof with my same-sex partner, I was guilty of a crime known as "lewd and lascivious cohabitation and gross lewdness" (Michigan Penal Code, Act 328, Michigan Compiled Laws 750.335), which is "a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or a fine of not more than $1,000.00."
posted by blucevalo at 12:08 PM on July 21, 2006


Zozo, I already cited one. Quit ignoring it.
posted by Plutor at 12:09 PM on July 21, 2006


As for correlation vs. causation, my gut and unmarried.org agree with you.
posted by Plutor at 12:10 PM on July 21, 2006


Debora Lynn Hobbs, a Pender County emergency dispatcher, filed the constitutional challenge last year after Sheriff Carson Smith discovered she had a live-in boyfriend and gave her an ultimatum: marry, move or leave her job.

Wow. What a fucking asshole.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 12:12 PM on July 21, 2006


Does this mean I can have sex with dogs now?
posted by bardic at 12:19 PM on July 21, 2006


Marla Singer : "heterosexual couples who don't want to marry are legally required to."

???
posted by Bugbread at 12:20 PM on July 21, 2006


I wasn't ignoring it, Plutor, I missed it. Thanks.
posted by Zozo at 12:22 PM on July 21, 2006


Plutor, I just skimmed it but didn't see a statistic on marriage stability following cohabitation versus not following cohabitation. Is that really there, and if so where? I saw stuff on stability of cohabitation relationships but that is different.
posted by caddis at 12:34 PM on July 21, 2006


What will Alabama do now?

Force unmarried first cousins to live separately?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:44 PM on July 21, 2006


triolus writes "How could you even enforce this?"

Isn't there some places in the states that make you get a habitation permit everytime you move if you are renting?
posted by Mitheral at 12:51 PM on July 21, 2006


Can gay couples cohabit?
posted by sfts2 at 2:48 PM EST on July 21 [+fave] [!]


Yes, but not too closely.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:26 PM on July 21, 2006


But people who live together before they are married might have sex. It's a very real possibility. What will Alabama do now? What will they do?

Same thing they have always done. Have sex with their brothers and sisters.
posted by Mr_Zero at 1:41 PM on July 21, 2006


Plutor, I just skimmed it but didn't see a statistic on marriage stability following cohabitation versus not following cohabitation.

Hm, I've skimmed it twice now myself and come to the same conclusion. I kind of assumed it was in there, since unmarried.org refuted it specifically. I don't feel like reading all hundred-plus pages in detail, so I don't know for a fact that it makes the claim that they allege is inaccurate.
posted by Plutor at 1:52 PM on July 21, 2006


Here's the results of one study that seems to indicate cohabitants have a higher divorce rate. They conclude it's probably due to several factors, including the fact that the kind of people who aren't willing to cohabitate before marriage are also more averse to divorce once they're married. In addition, a person's standards may be somewhat lower when chosing a cohabitation partner than when choosing a spouse--and once in that cohabitating relationship, the inertia of common living space and shared possessions can sometimes carry into a marriage.

That said, my fiancee and I are glad to finally be cohabiting legally.
posted by EarBucket at 5:03 PM on July 21, 2006


One possibility is that couples who are living together may decide to marry in an attempt to shore up relationships which are starting to come apart, or to revive ones that are failing. I can say that I know of a few couples who married after living together for a number of years, and that the marriages were over within another year or two.
posted by jokeefe at 7:03 PM on July 21, 2006


Can gay couples cohabit?

Sure, it's one of the benefits to living queer in a straight-centric world. We had it extra good in NC up until last summer, when the legislature expanded the indecent exposure law to include incidents of exposure to either gender. Damn them, we were having such fun exposing ourselves willy-nilly with impunity.

Anyone interested in this cohabitation case, btw, should glance at the NC Family Policy Council's policy paper from last year, "Living Together: How Cohabitation Undermines Marriage and the Family." [pdf] They really, really, *really* want laws against fornication and cohabitation strictly enforced.
posted by mediareport at 7:03 PM on July 21, 2006


Adult Probation in my county in North Carolina was recently instructed to start violating people who are on probation for living with a member of the opposite sex. Most of the judges have been ignoring it as a violation when it is brought before them and leaving the terms and conditions of the defendants' probation unchanged. We have, however, had a Superior Court judge who has for years made a specific term of probation be that the defendant may not cohabitate with a member of the opposite sex that he/she is not married to. This same judge also explained to me on one occassion why lying about a blow job was much worse than lying about reasons for invading a country.
posted by flarbuse at 8:15 PM on July 21, 2006


Do these studies correct for the length of time that people were cohabitating before getting married? (i.e. you should compare time since first living together rather than time since marriage).
posted by dopeypanda at 11:49 PM on July 21, 2006


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