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.History.—s. 6, ch. 1637, 1868; RS 2596; GS 3519; RGS 5407; CGL 7550; s. 773, ch. 71-136.
According to recent census figures, more than a half million couples in Florida appear to be openly breaking the law. Florida is not alone. As of 2005, 4.85 million unmarried couples were living together in the U.S. Furthermore, and as of 2002, half of all women aged 15 to 44 admitted to having lived unmarried with a partner. Nevertheless, most Florida lawmakers seem to avoid talking about the 19th century statute for fear of offending their conservative base. One who spoke off the record said, “Cohabitation of unmarried people is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by $500 or up to 60 days in jail. The same statute can be used to penalize cheating husbands and wives." One lawmaker, Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, is in favor of eliminating the penalty for cohabitation and adultery. HB 4021 has been filed but may die in committee before ever receiving a hearing on the proposed change. In the meantime, 5 or 6 other states have similar laws; however, they are all likely unconstitutional. See Lawrence v Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003). For example, in 2005 Virginia's Supreme Court struck down a state law prohibiting sex between unmarried people. The justices based their ruling on a U.S. Supreme Court decision voiding an anti-sodomy law in Texas. However, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, and West Virginia appear to still be living in the dark ages when it comes to legislating morality.
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