Michigan lawmakers voted this week to repeal an old law that banned unmarried couples from living together with a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison.
Known as the “zombie law,” it was first passed in 1931 and decrees that “any man or woman, not married to each other, shall conjugate and cohabit in a lewd and lascivious manner” is a violation. The law has not been enforced for decades.
The repeal was supported by Democratic State Senator Stephanie Chang, who believes common-law couples should receive the same tax benefits as legally married couples.
This bill is not about a moral issue, it is not about changing people’s behavior, and it is not about marriage rates. “It’s really just about bringing us into the 21st century,” Zhang said in a speech to the Legislative Council on Wednesday.
The only other state with a similar law on the books is Mississippi, where offenders could face a $500 fine and/or six months in jail.
The Senate passed the repeal on Wednesday and will now head to the Michigan House before landing on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk.
Democratic state Sen. Stephanie Chang advocated rescinding the bill
Michigan Bridge Reports indicate that at least one Republican, Senator Thomas Albert, spoke out against repealing the law because of his belief that children should be raised by married parents.
Having a criminal penalty for cohabitation is not good policy, but this law has potential consequences beyond that. Albert said he removes the bad from state law without making an effort to preserve what is good.
“It’s very easy for me to agree to this law if the tax structure continues to encourage marriage,” he added.
Michigan last try To repeal the law in 2016. It was last updated in 2002 when some languages were changed and the fine doubled from $500 to $1,000.
State courts only recognize unmarried couples who have been living together since 1957.
While another Republican, Senator Ed McBroom, said the law was passed in good spirit because it is designed to help the community and children.
During the arguments, State Senator Mallory McMurray, a Democrat, asked: “What year do they live in? I hate to laugh, but… I mean, I can’t imagine, in 2023, that either they themselves or people they know didn’t live.” together before marriage.
It was McMorrow who said the moves to repeal the law began when an accountant who had lived with his partner of 15 years and had children with him wondered why he couldn’t get the same tax benefits as legally married couples.
The bill passed the Michigan Senate 29-9, and half of Republicans voted against repealing the law
The senator blamed the revocation on “the deterioration of moral issues in society,” according to reports Detroit Metro Times.
Zhang said in response that she did not anticipate objections to repealing the law.
The bill passed the Michigan Senate 29-9 and now moves to the House of Representatives and then eventually to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office.
The Senate’s Public Finance Agency indicated that repealing the law “would have no fiscal impact” on state budgets.
Earlier this month, Whitmer rescinded Michigan’s 1931 anti-abortion law that set in motion the repeal of Roe v. Wade in 2022.
In that signing, Whitmer said, “Today, we will take action to make sure that our statutes and laws reflect our values and our Constitution.”
According to the IRS, people are prohibited from claiming any tax advantage that would violate state or local law.
In 2007, North Dakota repealed its cohabitation law. In addition to Michigan and Mississippi, similar laws remain in states such as Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Florida and West Virginia struck down their law in 2016, Virginia in 2020 While the law is still technically on the books in North Carolina, in 2019 it was invalidated by a judge and has not yet been ruled by the state Supreme Court.