- Michigan’s state Senate passed a bill to end a decades-long ban on unmarried couples living together.
- Half of Senate Republicans voted against repealing the law.
- The law was passed in 1931 and criminalizes cohabitation of unmarried men and women. Michigan is one of two states that have such a ban.
Republican lawmakers in Michigan are voicing their disagreement after the state Senate voted to end a decades-long ban on unmarried couples living together.
On Wednesday, all Senate Democrats and half of Republicans voted to pass Senate Bill 56, which aims to repeal state law that criminalizes cohabitation of unmarried men and women. Nine Republicans voted against the measure. The bill will now go to the state House, where Democrats hold a slim majority, for consideration.
Michigan is one of two states (Mississippi is the other) that still have policies that prohibit unmarried cohabitation, according to a 2016 analysis by the Senate Fiscal Agency. Under state law, it’s a crime for couples who are not married to live together in Michigan. The law, which was passed in 1931, is rarely enforced and carries a fine of $1,000.
“This is really about bringing us into the 21st century,” Democratic state Senator Stephanie Chang, who sponsored the bill, said from the Senate floor on Wednesday.
While state Democrats have called the ban outdated, some Republicans believe that keeping it would encourage marriage. State Senator Ed McBroom said the reasons that the policy has remained after all these years are “clearly not obsolete” and that the ban promotes “good morals.”
“This law was not passed to be mean or stodgy,” he said from the floor. “It was passed because it was better for society, and particularly for children.”
Newsweek reached out to McBroom via a contact page on his website for comment.
Other GOP legislators said their opposition had less to do with penalizing unmarried couples for living together, and more to do with the tax implications that the current ban has.
“The bill before us today will clear the way for two unmarried individuals living together to meet dependency requirements and get those tax benefits,” state Senator Thomas Albert said, adding that, “I very easily would be a ‘yes’ on this bill if the tax structure continued to encourage marriage.”
Because federal law prevents taxpayers from claiming a dependent if their relationship with that individual violates a state law, unmarried couples in Michigan who want to apply for the tax benefits of being a dependent technically cannot meet Internal Revenue Service requirements.
In order to claim a dependent, that person must either be related or living with the filing taxpayer. Because the cohabitation ban prevents those couples from living together, they cannot file as a dependent.
“The bill before us today would clear the way for two unmarried individuals living together to meet dependency requirements and claim those tax benefits,” Albert said.
But Chang defended the tax effects, saying the changes would “place unmarried Michigan taxpayers on equal footing with tax brackets in almost every other state.”
Newsweek reached out to Albert via a contact page on his website for comment.