Senate votes 40-0 to legalize cohabitation

Published 11:39 am Saturday, February 2, 2013

Brooke Moxley washes baby bottles at her Carrsville home while her fiance, Tony Longoria, holds the couple’s 4-month-old daughter, Sophia. In Virginia, it’s illegal for couples like Longoria and Moxley to live together. -- ANDREW FAISON/TIDEWATER NEWS


FRANKLIN—Tony Longoria didn’t know he was breaking the law by sharing a Carrsville home with his fiancé, Brooke Moxley.

Virginia legislators hope to change that.

On Thursday the Senate voted 40-0 to erase from the books a 136-year-old law that makes it illegal for unmarried couples to live together. Violators face a $500 fine for what’s commonly known as the “love shack” law, and only Mississippi, Michigan and Florida carry similar laws.

Introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, the bill is headed to the House. Gov. Bob McDonnell is backing the legislation, according to a published report.

“I thought they got rid of laws like this when they got rid of common-law a few years ago,” said Longoria, a construction worker and disc jockey who has lived with Moxley since 2008. “This law needs to go as well. It is common for couples to live together these days.”

Moxley, who has a 4-month-old daughter with Longoria, agrees; it is common for people to live together before they get married.

“In this day and age, when you love someone and are around them all the time anyway, you might as well live together,” the teacher’s aide said.

Franklin Police Lt. Tim Whitt also believes it’s time for the “antiquated” law to go.

“When it was first written, it may have held weight,” Whitt said. “In this day and age, it is common practice.”

In his 28 years of service, Whitt has never known the law to be enforced.

“It is my belief if we tried to enforce this, there would be anarchy,” he said.

Vickie Whitfield didn’t know she was breaking the law by living with her boyfriend of 10 months, Bernard Riddick, 25.

“We didn’t know about the law,” the 30-year-old Franklin woman said. “We decided to live together because it was convenient rent-wise and that only one of us currently has transportation.”

Whitfield, who like Riddick works as a painter, also believes it’s time to abolish the law.

“There are some people out there who need to live together for financial reasons and others that just don’t believe in marriage,” she said.

Ebbin proposed the change because it’s his understanding no one has been prosecuted under the law for decades.

“State officials used it as recently as the early 1990s to threaten a daycare provider’s state license,” he said.