Michigan May Repeal Old Law Against Unmarried Living Together

State Senate reversed the 59-Year-Old anti-cohabitation law in a bipartisan vote

ByABC News
May 11, 2016, 4:07 PM
The State Capitol Building in Lansing, Michigan, March 6, 2016.
The State Capitol Building in Lansing, Michigan, March 6, 2016.
Scott Legato/Getty Images for MoveOn.org

— -- A decades-old Michigan law against unmarried couples living together is on the verge of being reversed.

A bill to repeal the 59-year-old law received a 5-0 vote in the state’s Senate judiciary committee Tuesday. The stage is set for what could be a full repeal of the law -- which is rarely cited or enforced in the current state legal system -- when it comes to a vote before the entire Michigan Senate.

"We want to make Michigan a better place to live, and a more welcoming place for families of all kinds," Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, who introduced the bill last month, told ABC News.

"It's something that hasn't really been enforced," he added, "but this archaic law has negative consequences. It came up in the context of a tax issue."

Since 1957, the Michigan Penal Code has stated that unmarried couples living together are, "guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or a fine of not more than $1,000.00."

An individual cannot legally claim a common-law spouse as a dependent if the relationship itself is deemed illegal.

"They would run afoul of the IRS," Bieda said.

Mississippi is the only other state that currently has an anti-cohabitation law in place.

"My goal is to beat Mississippi on this," he added.

Law professionals in Michigan such as tax and family law attorneys are watching the Senate Bill 896 closely as it moves on to the full Senate for review.

"In the family law arena I handle a lot of divorce cases, and custody cases," Ann Arbor, MI attorney Wendy S. Alton told ABC News. "In the 13 years since I've been practicing, I've never seen the courts reference this law."

Even so, Alton still supports removing the penalties associated with the bill.

"It’s really kind of getting rid of an outdated law that isn't being enforced at all and should be off the books," she said.

Not everyone is on board with a total wipe-out.

"Although the bill has not been enforced, the law still sets a precedent," former Kalamazoo city commissioner Eric Cunningham told ABC News.