Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Show Me the Stupidity

I found this story via Radley Balko. An unmarried couple in Missouri, who have been together for 13 years and have two children together (and one additional child), are being evicted from their home because they don’t meet the city’s definition of a family:

Shelltrack and Fondray Loving, her boyfriend of 13 years, were denied an occupancy permit because of an ordinance forbidding three or more individuals from living together if they are not related by “blood, marriage or adoption.” The couple have three children, ages 8, 10 and 15, although Loving is not the biological father of the oldest child.

“I was basically told, you can have one child living in your house if you’re not married, but more than that, you can’t,” she said.

The couple appealed the denial of an occupancy permit last week at a hearing before Black Jack’s board of adjustment. Shelltrack said board members asked her and Loving personal questions about their relationship, their children and their previous home in Minneapolis, from where they moved, for nearly an hour. Then the board denied the couple’s appeal. The case now goes before Black Jack’s municipal court.

There is a fair bit of irony here. Loving is also the last name of the couple who challenged laws against interracial marriage and got them overturned (Loving v Virginia), and this is also an interracial couple (and I’m guessing that has just a bit to do with why their appeal was denied). This is blatant discrimination by the government and a clear violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment – it essentially means that a town can decide who can and can’t live there.

Comments

  1. #1 Chance
    February 23, 2006

    I agree this is unAmerican. On the flip side I think the couple is rather foolish for not taking advantage of marital benefits that can be easily and cheaply procured. But that is rather beside the point as it is their choice in a free society to do so or not. I frankly find this town, the people who harm others in this manner, and those that back them repugnant.

    It’s supposed to be about freedom as long as they aren’t hurting you.

  2. #2 JY
    February 23, 2006

    Don’t most states treat couples that have been together for so long as legally married (common-law and all)?

  3. #3 tacitus
    February 23, 2006

    This is even dumber than it sounds since the parents are related by blood via their children–moreso than two people simply married to each other (i.e. bound by a bit of paper with a contract on it).

  4. #4 Chance
    February 23, 2006

    Don’t most states treat couples that have been together for so long as legally married (common-law and all)?

    Thats a common misconception. It’s actually more complicated than that as there are three prongs. You must live together for a significant period of time, present yourself as man/wife(this may not be inadvertant and must be backed with documentation), and lastly you must agree to be married.

    I disagree a little with tacitus, I think it’s dumb, but being married is a contract and is far more than just a piece of paper. I understand your point however.

  5. #5 raj
    February 23, 2006

    I tend to agree with tacitus, but for a different reason. According to the article, the ordinance forbids three or more individuals from living together if they are not related by “blood, marriage or adoption.” All of the children appear to be related to at least one of the adults by blood, whether or not the adults are related by marriage. So what is the issue?

    Ordinances of these kinds are not that unusual, and they are intended to keep single family homes from being converted into unlicensed de-facto rooming houses, where a number of “strangers” rent rooms from the proprietor. That clearly is not the case here. I suspect that there is something else going on that has not been made known.

    Regarding common law marriage, it is my understanding that most states have abolished common law marriage. There are a number of reasons why they should have done so, but that’s a different issue.

  6. #6 Chance
    February 23, 2006

    Your correct raj. I think it’s only currently part of the law in 7-8 states.

  7. #7 JY
    February 23, 2006

    I think I just happened to live in a state (Colorado) where CL marriage was still recognized — and I do remember the bit now about having to present the relationship as a marriage.

  8. #8 ZacharySmith
    February 23, 2006

    I wonder if the town’s board feels that they are upholding “pro-family” values by discouraging people from merely living together.

    Does anyone know if any board members have made statements to that effect?

    Seems to be an odd way of upholding family values, but similar absurtities have happened with gay couples and children.

  9. #9 NoOneofConsequence
    February 23, 2006

    Black Jack is pretty ethnically diverse, so I don’t think race is an issue — although it may have been when the law was put on the books.

    St. Louis and the surounding suburbs are buried in christianity, so the family values BS could certainly be a part of it, but my guess is that the laws original intent was to block the poor/black people from moving in.

    The St. Louis inner-city is poor, the suburbs are higher incomes. Many of the minor cities in St. Louis county passed these laws in the 70′s to keep multiple poor families from renting/buying a house in a better neighborhood to get their kids into better schools.

    The laws didn’t work — The poor/black communities migrated from the city into North St. Louis county anyway — but that migration is complete to the point where blacks are not a minority in cities like Black Jack.

    Sorry if that was long winded.

  10. #10 bourgeois_rage
    February 23, 2006

    I tend to agree with tacitus, but for a different reason. According to the article, the ordinance forbids three or more individuals from living together if they are not related by “blood, marriage or adoption.” All of the children appear to be related to at least one of the adults by blood, whether or not the adults are related by marriage. So what is the issue?
    Ordinances of these kinds are not that unusual, and they are intended to keep single family homes from being converted into unlicensed de-facto rooming houses, where a number of “strangers” rent rooms from the proprietor. That clearly is not the case here. I suspect that there is something else going on that has not been made known.

    I guess my friends and I illegally rented a house throughout college. Well we weren’t in Missouri. But that seems absurd.

  11. #11 Treban
    February 23, 2006

    This, along with the gay marriage debate, is another example of why I believe more and more that marriage should be removed entirely from legal standing. I think that people who are domestic partners should get the legal benifits, currently given married couples, in a civil union. If they wish to be married it should be a seperate issue entirely. I can think of many situations where this would be benificial to non-traditional families. Legal marriage has been and continues to be a discrimanatory institution, therefor it should just be removed from the realm of public policy and relegated to church’s and private organizations who can administer the sacrement of marriage in accordance with their beliefs or lack thereof.