For better or for worse, there’s one law on the books in Florida that thousands of unmarried couples are breaking: living together.
And one Hallandale Beach woman thinks the violators should be prosecuted — even if they are city leaders.
“To violate a law even if it’s a dumb law doesn’t make sense,’’ said Linda Takahashi, “especially if it’s someone in a position where they are an elected official.”
On Friday, Takahashi sent a request to the city attorney for an investigation and possible prosecution of Hallandale Beach Commissioner Keith London, who has lived with longtime girlfriend Ilene Sultan for eight years.
London, who is running for mayor against incumbent Joy Cooper, is not amused. “I want to talk about the important issues facing Hallandale like the budget, use of our reserves and traffic,’’ London wrote in an email. “I believe the residents of Hallandale are much more concerned with the 15 percent increase in their sewage fees and fire assessment fees than my marital status.’’
But Takahashi insists she’s not politically motivated — she just has a fascination for antiquated laws that are not enforced.
State Statute 798.02, which has been on the books in Florida since the late 1800s or early 1900s, reads: “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.”
That punishment is a fine of $500 and up to 60 days in jail — in separate cells.
Takahaski said she plans to take the complaint to the Broward State Attorney’s Office. As of Friday, the State Attorney’s office had not received the complaint.
Last year, Ritch Workman, a Melbourne state representative, tried unsuccessfully to get the law repealed.
Workman said his mission is to repeal laws that are no longer enforced and don’t make sense. According to 2010 U.S. Census data, more than half a million people live with a partner to whom they are not married.
“We either need to start prosecuting or get these laws off the books,” said Workman.
He has successfully repealed laws against riding a bicycle with no hands on the handlebars and having a beer bottle collection.
But the cohabitation law proved more of a challenge last year when he couldn’t get anyone in the state Senate to back his bill. “Nobody wanted to touch the subject,” he said, adding he was going to try again this year.
Mary Anne Franks, a University of Miami professor of family and criminal law, called the law ridiculous and said it encourages disrespect of the law.
“The fact is, it’s a law and it’s not enforced,” she said.
The law, she said, infringes on people’s privacy.
Franks, who has used this law as an example for her classes, said she is not aware of any cases being prosecuted in recent years.
Workman said it is not about whether you believe living together is right or wrong — it’s about having a law on the books that is ignored.