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It’s not illegal to live together as an unmarried couple anymore in Michigan

Wow, one year in prison or being forced to get married. That's rough.

It’s not illegal to live together as an unmarried couple anymore in Michigan


JULY 13, 2023 3:02 AM

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

Men and women who “lewdly and lasciviously” associate with each other by cohabiting can no longer be found guilty of a misdemeanor in Michigan under a repeal of a 1931 law signed on Tuesday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Michigan is one of only two states with such an “outdated” prohibition, bill sponsor state Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) said. Mississippi is the other state, with up to a $500 fine for each party and a six month jail sentence.

Michigan’s penalty was steeper.

The law, before the repeal, reads from Section 750.335 of the 1931 Michigan Penal Code:

“Any man or woman, not being married to each other, who lewdly and lasciviously associates and cohabits together, and any man or woman, married or unmarried, who is guilty of open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or a fine of not more than $1,000.00. No prosecution shall be commenced under this section after 1 year from the time of committing the offense.”

SB 56, which strikes out the cohabitation portion, updates the language of the preceding portion to say any individual guilty of open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior will still face the penalty.

An analysis from the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency says it is unknown when the last time someone was held criminally liable for cohabitation and a House Fiscal Agency analysis says the cohabitation portion does not appear to be enforced.

However, proponents of the bill point out that the rule can bar couples from being able to claim members of their household in their taxes as the Internal Revenue Service has restrictions on such claims if the relationship violates local or state laws.

Chang said in a press release from the governor’s office Tuesday that the change will put unmarried couples on equal footing with their married peers when it comes to taxes.

“It’s time to bring Michigan into the current century by repealing the outdated cohabitation prohibition. It simply should not be a crime for an unmarried man and woman to live together,” Chang said.

The bill did not pass without opposition, receiving a 29-9 vote in the Senate and an 82-26 vote in the House, with all no votes coming from Republican lawmakers.

In the Senate, Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) offered his no vote explanation alongside some of his Republican colleagues, saying the repeal marks a shift in society’s morals.

“This law was not passed to be mean or stodgy. It was passed because it was better for society, and particularly for children,” McBroom said.

In the press release from the governor’s office Tuesday announcing the repeal, as well as banning child marriage in Michigan, Whitmer said legislation like this makes Michigan a safer and more welcoming place for anyone who calls the state home.

“Keeping Michiganders – especially young women – safe and healthy is a top priority, and these bills will take long overdue steps to protect individuals from abuse,” Whitmer said. “As a county prosecutor, I went after those who used their power to prey on young people, and as governor, I am proud to sign legislation to sign these protections into law.”

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