Monday, April 11, 2005

Cohabitation Inspiration

Sharon, Massachusetts, is a pretty wealthy, staid commuter town south of Boston. In 1986, it saw the catalyst for overturning the 202-year-old state law against cohabitation by an unmarried couple.

We may never know if it was a disgruntled ex-something that made the complaint, but someone notified the town selectmen that two police officers, Linda Farris and Lawrence Phaneuf, had cohabitated for six months in nearby Foxborough. [Speaking for the town without saying much, Norman Katz commented about who initiated the complaint, "It's interesting, but I'm not going to tell you," according to an article at the time in the Boston Globe.]

An additional wrinkle was that Farris was separated from her husband but a couple of weeks away from the divorce being final.

In a three-hour meeting, the selectmen flogged the subject to death. The cops faced losing their jobs. Yet, there was no way to prove that immoral behavior was going on behind those apartment doors. The board let the officers keep their jobs. Subsequently, the pair agreed not to sue the town for discrimination or civil-rights issues. They married.

The state house noticed. Then Governor Michael Dukakis said, "I don't know of many people who, whether they approve of it or not, think that people living together out to be a crime." That crime carried jail time and/or fines.

Rep. Marjorie Clapprood, a Democrat from Sharon, sponsored a bill to repeal that portion of the law. The Globe quoted her in 1987 as saying, "It's a silly law that should have been taken off the books a long time ago. Any time you have an antiquated, anachronistic law, it is always subject to abuse."

Her bill passed in 1987 and Dukakis signed it.

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