I like to believe I lead an honest and legal life. I’ve done a few daft things while under the influence but have never knowingly broken the law. So, imagine my surprise when I read in a recent Guardian that if I lived in one of seven US states – North Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia and North Dakota – as I have done for the last seven years here in the UK, I would actually be liable to prosecution and could face a $1000 fine or 60-days in prison.
A 40-year old woman was sacked by a sheriff in North Carolina when it was discovered she had been cohabiting for the past twelve years. (More accurately she was given the choice of marrying, finding another job or getting the push). The law, which clearly needs to be reformed, is 200 years old. Over the past six years thirty-five people have been charged and seven convicted. Given the size of these counties, it has affected very few people but this is clearly a piece of anachronistic legislation which the American people should be fighting against. Even in less tolerant times in Britain, living with someone outside of marriage was never (to the best of my knowledge) a criminal offence – you just had to cope with the looks and snipes of the more ‘moral’ neighbours.
I’ve been in my current relationship for nine years in September – far longer than many marriages these days. Surely, that’s saying something.