Floridians divided on 19th century sex law

by on September 12, 2011  •  In Criminal law

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that agitation is afoot in that state about the law criminalizing cohabitation between unmarried men and women, plus a criminal ban on adultery. (Doubtless the adultery law, too, has been historically limited to different-sex couples. But if a gay couple marries in New York, moves to Florida and hanky-panky begins…) 

According to the paper:

Now, Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, is on a mission to repeal the statutes penalizing adultery and cohabitation, as well as other laws he finds outdated, like a requirement that all bicycle riders keep one hand on the handle bars. He filed adultery the bill last week — it's HB 4021 — though he hasn't returned phone calls about it for the past two days.

Nobody else much wants to talk about it either. Asked how Gov. Rick Scott felt about the measure, spokeswoman Amy Graham replied simply, "This isn't an issue the governor is focused on."

The bill has no Senate counterpart. And given the almost-certain opposition of social conservatives who lobby hard on "family values" issues, it'll face tough sledding in an election year.

Consider the response of State Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who previously headed the Florida chapter of the Christian Coalition: "I'm not ready to give up on monogamy and a cultural statement that marriage still matters," he said.

But here's what I really love about this story.  Along with the above report, the Sun-Sentinel ran one of those pointless "polls" in which readers are invited to vote their opinion, in this case on whether the cohabitation law should be repealed.  Of 5,487 total responses:

  • Heck yeah, we live in 2011. Who doesn't co-habitate? (4582 responses)


  • No way, there's a reason this is the law. (795 responses)


("I'm not sure" drew 110 responses.)

That's right – 14% of those voting want to keep a criminal law banning cohabitation. Res ipsa.


One Response to Floridians divided on 19th century sex law

  1. Elizabeth Pleck January 10, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Reformers have been trying to eliminate Florida’s law against cohabitation since the 1970s; in fact, they came closer to eliminating it in the 1970s than Workman’s one-man failed effort of the last two years. For more on the history of Florida law criminalizing cohabitation, see my book, Not Just Roommates: Cohabitation after the Sexual Revolution (Chicago, 2012).

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