Did you know that it has been illegal for unmarried couples to live together in Florida? Though this is something that commonly happens, it has, technically, been illegal since the law was passed almost 150 years ago, in 1868. That was just three years after the end of the Civil War, but no one thought to change it until now.
The Law Changes
The change came on Wednesday, April 6, when Florida governor Rick Scott put his signature on the bill to repeal the law.
Couples now officially don’t have to wait until marriage to move in together. Though Scott signed roughly 20 bills during the day, this one is turning the most heads because people often didn’t even know cohabitation was illegal. In the overwhelming majority of cases, this old law was not being enforced. Data collected during the census in 2014 revealed that about 438,000 couples were living together in Florida, out of the 7.3 million total households.
These types of laws are not common, but they also aren’t unheard of, as a handful of other states do still have legal statutes prohibiting cohabitation without marriage and other such activities.
So, what would have happened had the authorities decided to enforce the law? Those caught living together could have been put in jail for as long as 60 days. They could also have been fined up to $500 -— which was certainly much more in 1868 than it is today.
A Coming Trend
In a lot of ways, this isn’t going to have a big impact on couples in Florida, many of whom didn’t know about the law and were violating it without prosecution, anyway, but it will be interesting to see if it becomes a trend in other states that still have these laws. Perhaps Florida has paved the way to see similar changes across the United States. Of course, no matter how infrequently a law is enforced, it’s always useful for people to know the laws governing families and to know their legal options when accused of breaking them.