Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Breaking the Law

It is still illegal for unmarried couples to live together in seven states, surely this law is not enforced in 2005, right? Wrong.

Sheriff Carson Smith of Pender County, North Carolina, recently relied on a 1805 law banning the cohabitation of unmarried persons to give one of his employees an ultimatum.

He told Deborah Hobbs she could either marry her boyfriend, move out of the house they were living in together or get fired. Hobbs, 40, quit and went to the American Civil Liberties Union, which launched a legal challenge to the law.


Here is the North Carolina statute § 14-184:

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.

(hey, at least gays get a free pass in this law)

According to the article, there have been 36 people charged under this law in North Carolina and 7 convictions. North Carolina is not the only state still in the 19th century as Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi and North Dakota have similar laws as well. Also, four states (Illinois, Minnesota, South Carolina and Utah) still have laws against fornication.

The morality police are definitely out there. I doubt that many companies have moral fitness committees to come and inspect employees' homes like Henry Ford did, but I have spoken to people here in Indiana who have lost jobs because they were either dating someone while their divorce was pending or cohabiting. I think it is best that not to share details of your personal life with coworkers.

More information on Ms. Hobbs' case


Blogger Ms. Cuckoo said...

"You have a very weird country which laws and manners are beyond my comprehension."

a quote from a Persian genie which accidentally found himself in USSR (one of my favourite chidhook books)

May 25, 2005  
Blogger torporific said...

Yes, we do. Remember a lot of our early settlers were Puritans. They came to our country to escape religious persecution and then foisted their own brand of persecution on others.

May 25, 2005  
Blogger lemming said...

Puritans came here to establish an ideal society and "ideal" did not mean "religious tolerance." Funny how the politicians who rant about our history of religious freedom overlook this point.

This law intrigues me. My oldest friend is a man. We have reasonably compatable habits. If we shared an apartment, one with two bedrooms, would we be breaking the law?

May 25, 2005  
Blogger torporific said...

Well, do you lewdly and lasciviously associate? As a lawyer, I wonder how one proves this in a court of law.

May 25, 2005  
Blogger lemming said...

How to define "lewd and lascivious" anyway? Yes, yes, "I know it when see it." :-)

Is it lewd if I stay the night at his place? visit for the weekend?

May 26, 2005  
Blogger torporific said...

Yes, to use the Potter Stewart reference. I really do not know who would give testimony in one of these cases. One of the parties would have to make an admission or otherwise be an exhibitionist.

Strangely, the North Carolina code does not define lewd and lascivious under that chapter. They do have a separate section for pornography where they resort to Stewart like words (note this is in regard to the sale of pornography):

Lewd matter" is synonymous with "obscene matter" and means any matter:

a. Which the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find, when considered as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; and

b. Which depicts patently offensive representations of:

1. Ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated;

2. Masturbation, excretory functions, or lewd exhibition of the genitals or genital area;

3. Masochism or sadism; or

4. Sexual acts with a child or animal.

Nothing herein contained is intended to include or proscribe any writing or written material, nor to include or proscribe any matter which, when considered as a whole, and in the context in which it is used, possesses serious literary, artistic, political, educational, or scientific value.

(3) "Lewdness" is synonymous with obscenity and shall mean the act of selling, exhibiting or possessing for sale or exhibition lewd matter.

The North Carolina statutory code is replete with the usage of the term "lewd" yet it offers no definition except in relation to pornography. I looked up "lewd" in in order to have a more precise definition of the word and my company's firewall settings admonished me for looking up "general pornography".

In another note, here is another North Carolina statute. You and your friend probably do not want to include NC in your vacation plans:

§ 14‑186. Opposite sexes occupying same bedroom at hotel for immoral purposes; falsely registering as husband and wife.

Any man and woman found occupying the same bedroom in any hotel, public inn or boardinghouse for any immoral purpose, or any man and woman falsely registering as, or otherwise representing themselves to be, husband and wife in any hotel, public inn or boardinghouse, shall be deemed guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.

May 26, 2005  

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