Friday, May 25, 2018
Politics

Romano: Lawmakers can't resist peeking under the sheets

We are such a proud state. So confident in our beliefs, so steadfast in our traditions.

It is the armor we wear in the face of constant ridicule. Let the rest of the nation rush headlong into the 21st century; we'll continue measuring our days by Florida time.

Even if that means we're still dragging our feet into the 20th century.

Take this whole living-in-sin rigmarole. If our long-ago leaders decided it was illegal for unmarried couples to live together in 1868, who are we to question their wisdom? Just because they had recently led Florida into an ill-fated war and would soon bungle the 1876 presidential election doesn't mean their vision should be questioned.

And, still, the dreamers in our Legislature are planning on taking up the issue again in 2016. It will be the fifth time in six years they've tried to repeal statutes that forbid adultery, as well as a man and a woman "lewdly and lasciviously" cohabitating.

The first two times, the measure was killed in a subcommittee before it could gain any traction. The past two years it was actually passed favorably out of the criminal justice subcommittee, but then stacked under a mountain of gun bills until it was forgotten.

Now I know what some of you might be thinking:

How can a state that preaches smaller government and individual liberties justify an intrusive law from the horse-and-buggy era that has no bearing on today's society?

Simple.

It's called being sanctimonious, and it's our default rationale. It's how we can insist that the government has no right to keep us from buying, carrying, shooting and stroking our guns, and yet empower cops to be on the lookout for suspicious booty calls.

And, yes, you could trot out the argument that cohabitation is legal in 47 other states. Or that a half-dozen holdouts have recently gotten around to repealing, or declaring unconstitutional, similar laws. Like Arizona and New Mexico in 2001. Or North Carolina in '06. Or North Dakota in '07. Or West Virginia and Virginia in '10 and '13, respectively.

None of which makes us backward relics. It makes us pious relics.

And, from all appearances, that's how we like to roll.

It doesn't matter that Census figures suggest close to 600,000 unmarried couples are violating state law by living under the same roof in Florida. And it doesn't matter that countless others are flouting the statute about adultery.

It doesn't matter that law enforcement looks the other way, or that we are allowing otherwise law-abiding citizens to face six-month jail terms and $500 fines.

What matters is that our jittery lawmakers are so afraid of the religious right that they are perfectly happy keeping nonsensical and unenforceable laws on the books.

When she brought up the possibility of repealing the law some weeks ago, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, was told by one representative that her bill flew in the face of marriage, as if divorce was more rumor than reality.

"The government should not be peeking under the sheets, frankly, of its citizens," Rehwinkel Vasilinda said in summation.

So does this make Florida's lawmakers old-fashioned? Maybe out of touch?

I wouldn't say that.

After all, hypocrisy never goes out of style.

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