from AASP's Executive Director
to Virginia Department of Social Services
June 29, 2001
Department of Social Services
Commonwealth of Virginia
Eastern Regional Office
Suite 300 / Pembroke 4
Virginia Beach, VA 23462
Re: Licensing of Davis Day Care
Darlene Kay Davis, licensee
Dear Mr. Ingram:
I am writing to you to support the renewal of the day care license of the Davis Day Care
Center owned by Darlene Kay Davis. Ms. Davis is a member of our organization.
The American Association for Single People is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization
which promotes the well being and human rights of unmarried individuals, couples, parents
and families. Over 1 million households in Virginia are headed by unmarried adults.
Among these unmarried households are more than 126,000 in which occupants
identified themselves to the Census Bureau as unmarried partners.
The Department of Social Services has apparently threatened not to renew the day care
license of Ms. Davis, simply because the Department believes that she is living with an
unmarried partner. Ms. Davis has been successfully operating her day care center for
nearly 17 years and has the support of her clients. It would be a travesty of justice, and
a violation of the state and federal
constitutions, for the Department to deny her a license now merely because of her
unmarried living arrangement.
We are concerned about the precedent that would be established by such unconstitutional
state action and are worried about the effect it would have on other unmarried adults who
have business or professional licenses in Virginia.
In view of the decision of the Virginia Supreme Court in Cord v. Gibb, 219 Va. 1019, 254
S.E.2d 71 (1979), unmarried cohabitation should not preclude an otherwise competent and
honest person from obtaining a professional license in Virginia.
The words of the Supreme Court more than 20 years ago in the Cord case are equally
applicable today to the situation of Ms. Davis:
While Cords living arrangement may be unorthodox and unacceptable to some
segments of society, this conduct bears no rational connection to her fitness to practice
law. It can not, therefore, serve to deny her the certificate required by Code section
Accordingly, we hold that the trial court erred in refusing to issue petitioner a
certificate of honest demeanor or good moral character.
The state law prohibiting unmarried cohabitation may not legally serve as a basis for
denying Ms. Davis the license. That statute existed at the time of the Cord case and did
not prevent the Supreme Court from ruling the way it did in that case. Furthermore, the
anti-cohabitation statute is unconstitutional.
In Doe v. Duling, 603 F. Supp. 960 (1985), the federal district court ruled that
Virginias fornication and anti-cohabitation statutes violated the federal
Constitution. The only reason that ruling was reversed on appeal was that the plaintiffs
in the Doe case lacked standing to challenge the statute because they were not threatened
with any imminent harm by it. (Doe v. Duling, 782 F.2d 1202 (1986)) In contrast, Ms. Davis
does have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the statute because the state is
threatening to deny her a business license on the basis of this unconstitutional law.
Finally, there is no consensus that unmarried cohabitation is immoral. A Gallup Poll
released on May 24, 2001, shows that a majority of adults believe that unmarried
cohabitation is morally acceptable. The finding of that poll is consistent with social
science research which shows that among adults who have married in recent years, a
majority of them cohabited beforehand. Thus, Virginias anti-cohabitation law is not
consistent with the attitudes and practices of most adults. It is unconstitutional to
using the power of criminal law against unmarried adults based on the religiously-based
moral beliefs of one segment of the population. (Cf. People v. Onofre, 51 N.Y.2d 476
(1980); Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 92 S.Ct. 1029 (1972). Also, use of government
authority to enforce private morality of a segment of the public would implicate the
Establishment Clause of the Virginia and United States Constitutions.
On behalf of Ms. Davis, as well as all 126,000 unmarried couples in the state who could be
harmed by a negative precedent in the Davis case, I urge you to grant the license to Ms.
Davis. She is competent, honest, and has the support of her clients. She has successfully
operated the day care center for many years. It would be irrational for her license to be
THOMAS F. COLEMAN
cc: Darlene Kay Davis
ACLU of Virginia
|Virginia state cohabitation law may end womans
published by the Virginian-Pilot reports that Darlene K. Davis home-based day care
service may be forced to close down by a state law enacted in 1877 which prohibits
The state licensing officials are currently investigating whether Davis'
living arrangement with Cary L. Cohen violates a law that prohibits unmarried couples to
live together. If Davis is found guilty, her license to operate Davis Day Care will not be
``I've been doing this for close to 17 years, what's the big deal now?''
said Davis, 61, who lives in the Bromley neighborhood. ``Why does my private life have
anything to do with my caring for children?''
On previous license renewal applications, Cohen was listed as a boarder.
This time, Cohen was listed as a roommate, said Charles Ingram, spokesman for the Virginia
Department of Social Services. Davis' license expires next month.
``When you're a boarder, we don't draw an association that there is
someone in the status of cohabitation,'' Ingram said. ``But when you say roommate, that is
a language that, to us, begins to fall under the cohabitation law.''
The law falls under the heading ``lewd and lascivious cohabitation.'' It
states, ``If any persons not married to each other lewdly or lasciviously cohabit
together. . . each of them shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.'' A Class 3
misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of no more than $500.
The number of unmarried couples living together in South Hampton Roads
increased 67percent in past 10 years, according to the 2000 census. In 1990, there were
11,661 unmarried couples living together. In 2000, there were 19,435.
``This law is for everyone, but I could lose my business,'' said Davis,
who has been a day care provider for more than 30 years. ``If I lose my business, I lose
my house, I lose everything.''
Ingram said Davis can appeal if the state decides not to renew her
license. But if an administrative hearing upholds the decision, it is final.
Davis has three alternatives if she wants to stay in business, Ingram
She could watch no more than five children a day, which wouldn't require
licensing, he said. Davis is now licenced to watch 12 children. Cohen, 63, could move out,
or the couple can marry.
``I love the woman, and I would marry her in a heartbeat,'' Cohen said.
But that would mean Davis, a widow, would lose her military health benefits, he said.
Davis suffers from osteoporosis, diabetes and three angioplasty procedures.
Baby-sitting five children wouldn't bring in enough money, Davis said, and
living without Cohen is not an option.
``Mr. Cohen and I are not about to leave each other,'' Davis said. ``I'm
going to fight this tooth and nail.''