Close-up of a Florida map.

Florida lawmakers to dump 1868 'sin' law criminalizing unwed live-in lovers

Close-up of a Florida map.

Close-up of a Florida map.

(Reuters) - The Florida legislature is moving to legalize unwed cohabitation, repealing an 1868 law that makes "lewd and lascivious behavior" among consenting adults a misdemeanor punishable by 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

"The times have changed," Senator Eleanor Sobel, a South Florida Democrat, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

"Currently, over a half-million couples in Florida are breaking this law. The government should not intrude into the private lives of consenting adults."

They are not getting caught much, Sobel said, but some grandparents are being denied visitation rights because they live with an unmarried partner, and that cohabitation status could show up in background checks as a law violation.

"Only three states are left with this outdated statute — Florida, Michigan and Mississippi," she said.

The committee voted unanimously for her repeal bill, which earlier cleared the Criminal Justice Committee. It is set for Senate floor debate in the second half of the session in May.

A companion measure in the House has also cleared two committees and is pending in the House Judiciary Committee.