RICHMOND – Unwed cohabitation may still be living in sin to some, but it would no longer be illegal if legislation working its way through the General Assembly becomes law.
Sen. Adam Ebbin’s proposal to remove Virginia from the dwindling number of states that penalize such behavior – he said four other states have similar statutes – unanimously passed the Senate Courts of Justice Committee Monday.
His legislation, SB 969, would repeal language that’s been on Virginia’s books since 1877.
It defines unmarried couples who shack up as engaging in lewd and lascivious behavior, conduct punishable with a $500 fine for a first offense.
Conviction for subsequent offenses carries up to one year in jail and a maximum $2,500 fine.
Ebbin, an openly gay Alexandria Democrat, said his bill applies to straight and gay couples, as the current law does.
He noted that an estimated 140,000 Virginians live with an unmarried partner.
“These men and women share that relationship openly, and without shame,” Ebbin said, adding that state and federal Supreme Court decisions have already made such laws unconstitutional.
Ebbin said the unanimous passage of his bill out of committee shows “times are changing” in Virginia, though it still faces a full Senate vote, and if it survives that, review in the House of Delegates.
- Julian Walker, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot