The Republican war against sex

Unmarried people living together is so common now that few bother to even comment on it. But that was not always the case and as an example, there is a 1931 law in Michigan that prohibits that practice. This is one of the many laws dating back ages ago that are seen as out of date and are routinely violated without any authority taking action against the violators. Occasionally someone decides that they might as well repeal the law in case some overzealous prosecutor or mischief maker discovers its existence and dredges it up to harass someone they dislike or make some kind of point.

You would think that voting to repeal a prohibition against unmarried cohabitation would be a no-brainer. But some Republicans in Michigan are fighting even this.

An attempt to repeal a Michigan law that punishes unmarried couples who live together is being thwarted by Republicans in the state legislature.

The law, which dates to 1931, targets “any man or woman, not being married to each other, who lewdly and lasciviously associates and cohabits together”.

It is rarely enforced but violations carry a penalty of up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Senate Bill 56, which seeks to repeal the law, attracted support from all state senate Democrats and half of Republicans. But nine Republicans voted against.

Edward McBroom, a Republican, spoke in opposition to the bill on the senate floor – for, he said, the sake of the “common good”.

He said: “This law was not passed to be mean … it was passed for the betterment of society, particularly for children.”

When someone like McBroom brings up that tired old argument that “it is about the children”, you know they are on weak ground and that they cannot tell you the real reason. It was ridiculed in The Simpsons where a character repeatedly brings up concerns about children whatever the discussion.

Oddly enough, this law has tax implications for Michigan residents.

According to federal law, an individual may not claim someone such as their domestic partner as a dependent, if their state outlaws the nature of their relationship. Only one other state – Mississippi – has a similar law regarding unmarried couples.

In Michigan, for the first time in four decades, Democrats control the legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Referencing that new landscape, a Democratic state senator, Erika Geiss, tweeted: “Between this and the anti-abortion laws that are now repealed in Michigan, 1931 was quite the year in Michigan when its legislature was composed of solely men.

“But this legislature in 2023, composed of mostly women, is fixing that shit.”

Republicans are showing that they really, really hate the idea of people, especially women, feeling freer to make choices about when and where and with whom they have sex, plain and simple.


  1. says

    Did anyone try to explain exactly HOW this prohibition is supposed to “better” or “benefit” any children? Which children, exactly, are affected by unmarried adults living together, and what will a prohibition of same do to those particular children?

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    For the betterment of children, it would be nice if they didn’t have to worry about people entering their schools carrying AR-15s. Wonder how many of the nine Republicans would agree? Never mind, it was a rhetorical question.

  3. says

    Historically, children grew up apprenticed or hard-working peasants, seldom part of a modern nuclear family. Daddy died in the fields, or went away to the war and never came back, or died when the war came to him, or it was an infection. Mom may have died in childbirth, or of smallpox. History is full of accounts of houses found full of corpses with one crying infant, who was taken and raised or turned into labor. Christofascists idea of a family is an even bigger stretch than their self-reincarnating messiah. Their fantasies are based on the lives of the upper class who, at the time, made up less than 1% of the population.

    Historically, kids grew up happy if they had regular meals, few beatings, and a safe place to sleep. The historical fact about children is that the manority grew up ignorant, superstitious, and illiterate. That is what the christofascists want: more of their own kind.

  4. lochaber says

    I’ve also heard of a lot of places having old laws barring unrelated people from living in the same dwelling. I think the common excuse I hear currently is to prevent brothels/prostitution/sexwork (not like there aren’t already laws against that…), but I strongly suspect it’s just as much about kicking down on poor people and LGBT people, as so many things seem to be…

  5. KG says

    Marcus Ranum@3,

    Actually, the prevalence of “nuclear family” structures in the past, particularly in northern Europe, remains a matter of dispute among relevant experts. Contrary to what you say, it’s likely to have been absent among the aristocracy, where the “family” would have been defined as including numerous servants. Among the rural poor (peasants or landless labourers) it’s likely to have been quite prevalent at least for the last few centuries: children would indeed have worked from a young age, but would mostly have lived and worked with their parents. If you lived to be old enough to reproduce, you had a reasonable chance (particularly if you were a man and hence not exposed to the dangers of childbirth) of reaching 60, except in relatively rare periods of epidemic disease or exceptionally destructive warfare (such as the Black Death, or the 30 Years’ War, 1618-48, in which perhaps 1/3 of the population of Germany perished). Until the 20th century, only a small minority of men would ever have been actively engaged in warfare -- earlier societies simply couldn’t support mass-mobilization such as occurred in WW1 and WW2. Much lower figures often given for life expectancy are accurate, but due to high rates of child mortality.

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