Monday, May 09, 2005

The Dangers of Cohabitation

Did you know that cohabitation between unmarried couples is still illegal in seven states? North Carolina is one of them and is having its law challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):

The law against cohabitation is rarely enforced. But now the American Civil Liberties Union is suing to overturn it altogether, on behalf of a former sheriff's dispatcher who says she had to quit her job because she wouldn't marry her live-in boyfriend.

Deborah Hobbs, 40, says her boss, Sheriff Carson Smith of Pender County, near Wilmington, told her to get married, move out or find another job after he found out she and her boyfriend had been living together for three years. The couple did not want to get married, so Hobbs quit.

Her lawsuit, filed in March in state court, seeks to have the cohabitation law declared unconstitutional.

What I found interesting about the case is this argument for keeping the law on the books:

"We think that it's good to have a law against cohabitation because the studies show that couples that cohabitate before they're married, that their marriages are more prone to break up, there's less stability in the marriage," said Bill Brooks, executive director of the conservative North Carolina Family Policy Council.

Bill Brooks confuses causality and correlation here. This is commonly done by the right-wingers, because they don't like "living in sin". Why would cohabitation raise the odds of later divorce? It makes no sense. If anything, living together before marriage should make divorce less likely, because fewer unsuitable marriages will be made in the first place. No, the correlation between cohabiting and divorce is much more likely to reflect the fact that the people who are opposed to cohabitation are also opposed to divorce, even when the marriage makes them miserable.