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Michigan Republicans fight to end ban on unmarried couples living together

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  • The Michigan 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 between unmarried men and women. Michigan is one of two states with such a ban.

Republican lawmakers in Michigan voice their dissent after the state Senate voted to end a decades-old ban on unmarried couples living together.

On Wednesday, all Senate Democrats and half Republicans voted to pass Senate Bill 56, which aims to repeal a state law criminalizing cohabitation between unmarried men and women. Nine Republicans voted against the measure. The bill now heads to the State House, where Democrats hold a slim majority, for consideration.

According to a 2016 analysis by the Senate Fiscal Agency, Michigan is one of two states (Mississippi is the other) that still have policies that prohibit unmarried cohabitation. Under state law, it is a crime for couples who are not married to live together in Michigan. The law, which was passed in 1931, is rarely enforced and imposes a fine of $1,000.

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Stock image of a couple celebrating. Republican lawmakers in Michigan have voiced their disagreement with the state Senate’s move to end a decades-old ban on unmarried couples living together.
iStock/Getty Images

“This is really about bringing us into the 21st century,” Democratic State Senator Stephanie Chang, who sponsored the bill, told the Senate floor on Wednesday.

While state Democrats have criticized the ban as outdated, some Republicans believe that keeping it will encourage marriages. State Senator Ed McBroom said that the reasons for the policy being in place after all these years “are clearly not obsolete” and that the ban promotes “good morals”.

“This law was not passed to be mean or dull,” he told the floor. “It was passed because it was better for the society and especially the children.”

newsweek McBroom was reached through a contact page on his website for comment.

Other GOP legislators said their opposition was less concerned with punishing unmarried couples for living together, and more with the tax implications of the current ban.

State Senator Thomas Albert said, “The bill before us today would clear the way for two unmarried individuals living together to meet the dependency requirements and receive those tax benefits.” The tax structure continued to encourage marriage.”

Because federal law prohibits taxpayers from claiming a dependent if their relationship with that person violates state law, unmarried couples in Michigan who want to apply for the tax benefits of being technically dependents can go through internal law. Cannot meet revenue service requirements.

To claim a dependent, that person must either be related to or live with the filing taxpayer. Because the cohabitation ban prevents those couples from living together, they cannot file as dependents.

“The bill before us today would clear the way for two unmarried individuals to live together and meet the dependency requirements and claim those tax benefits,” Albert said.

But Chang defended the tax implications, saying the changes “will put unmarried Michigan taxpayers on the same footing with tax brackets in nearly every other state.”

newsweek Albert was reached through a contact page on his website for comment.