Monday, April 03, 2006

Marry or Move?

I saw this story on CNN it's one of their "video only" ones so I was looking for a print link for those of you who didn't want to watch the video.

According to St. Louis Today as linked above:

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.

This has been going on for quite some time in Missouri according to the St. Louis Today article as well as the court ruling:

In 1985, the city of Ladue sued a couple for violating a city ordinance prohibiting an unmarried man and woman from living together if they were not "related by blood, marriage or adoption." A year later, the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the ruling against the couple, who had lived in the home since 1981.

In listening to the CNN Video, I transcribed this exchange:

Norma Mitchell, Black Jack Board of Adjustment:
May I ask, if you've been together for 13 years, why you have not married in 13 years?

Fondray Loving:
It's a choice we both made. There's no law that says we have to be married is it?

Norma Mitchell:
I do not see her advantage of living with a man without a marriage license.

Recently another family was told to marry or move, Inside Edition reported in March:

Andrea Hyde and her long-time boyfriend Chelsea Jarrell lived in Black Jack with her sons from a previous marriage, until they were forced to leave their rented home last fall by town officials. Jarrell says officials asked her question after question about her marital status.

According to Salon even People Magazine wrote about this story (guess I'm behind on my People magazine reading):

According to People, most proponents of the ordinance say it is "designed to safeguard residential neighborhoods from everything from fraternities and group homes to crack houses." Yet, this kind of rule easily crosses the line into discriminatory zoning. Black Jack Mayor Norman McCourt, who strongly supports the ordinance, insists that "it's about overcrowding, and has nothing to do with family values or religion." Sure, if by "overcrowding" you mean gay families or immigrants who rely on living in larger groups to afford housing, and who fall outside of Black Jack's economically and heterosexually biased definition. And it seems unlikely that the Shelltrack-Lovings -- a family of five -- would be overcrowded in a four-bedroom home.

But before we get all high and mighty, we should all check our own city zoning codes. Many towns have rules like Black Jack's. They just aren't enforced. Hartford, Conn., land-use attorney Dwight Merriam told People that he estimates "five to ten percent of households in this country are in violation of the local definition of 'family.'"

I can't help but wonder how many couples have decided to get married thru this almost shot gun marriage type approach rather than to move.


Me4Prez said...

My friend Hank and I got thrown out of a condo during college because of stupid rules. Our friend's mom bought it and we rented from her, but because she didn't live there, everyone in the place had to be a relative. We were the quiet ones too because we were 3 engineering students and a guy who never came home from the bars.

I suppose this situation is even more stupid than mine though. Probably more to keep gays out than any statement on marriage

Lisa Renee said...

Well, you could be gay and live together as long as you didn't have more than one child. That's what's strange about the way the law is worded. Both of the recent families who have been told to move would have been legally given the occupancy permit if they only had one child.

I know locally Toledo tried to prevent college students from renting houses by changing the occupancy laws.

historymike said...

True, Lisa.

These rules are attempts to legislate both morality and "ideal" family arrangements.

Unfortunately, fewer families fit these narrow definitions any more.

Lisa Renee said...

Mike, it just occurred to me that laws like this could also prevent people from being foster parents, limiting them to only being able to foster one child at a time.

I guess if they are trying to promote marriage that must have escaped them as another consequence of laws like this.

Anonymous said...

Good find, Lisa....I was going to say something but Mike took care of it for me.

Right to Privacy Amendment, people....better get one.....

Me4Prez said...

What if a gay couple moved in together and they both had a kid of their own from before that that had fathered or mothered.

Stephanie said...

I guess I understand the mentality of the law... But, it goes about it the wrong way. If it could be used ONLY to "attack" the things they were talking about (like crack houses), then I guess I'd be more supportive, but as it is...