JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi has the fourth highest concentration of unmarried people in the U.S., but that does not always mean men and women are not living together. In Mississippi, it is apparently illegal for unmarried couple to “shack up,” or to have sexual relations while living under the same roof. Like you may have guessed, this law is not enforced. Also, Mississippi College of Law professor Matt Steffey says it is unconstitutional.
“We’ve got these laws regulating sexual behavior that now seem quite outdated. – A criminal prosecution for two adults fornicating or cohabitating would certainly be unconstitutional. The line of cases that have given people the freedom to define their intimate relationships about marriage and childbirth render them unconstitutional. So while we do have these adulterated fornication laws on the books, no one is at risk of going to jail for violating them,” said Steffey.
Steffey goes on further to say that he believes there is little political incentive for representatives or senators to champion a change in the statue books to reflect the existing state of the law out of fear that they may be perceived as being against family values.
For reference, here is the law:
Universal Citation: MS Code § 97-29-1 (2013)
If any man and woman shall unlawfully cohabit, whether in adultery or fornication, they shall be fined in any sum not more than five hundred dollars each, and imprisoned in the county jail not more than six months; and it shall not be necessary, to constitute the offense, that the parties shall dwell together publicly as husband and wife, but it may be proved by circumstances which show habitual sexual intercourse.
In states like Alabama, if couples live together for a certain number of years, technically they are married under the rule of common law.
In Mississippi common law was abolished in 1956, but in 1980 the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that common law marriages from others states are still recognized.