Seven states and the District of
Columbia make it a crime for a man and a woman to engage in consensual intercourse in
private: Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West
Virginia, and D.C. fall into this
Civil effects of criminal
Some courts that have restricted the
civil rights of unmarried cohabitants have cited criminal laws against fornication or
cohabitation as the rationale for doing so. For example, courts in Washington, Minnesota,
Michigan, Maryland have relied on these criminal laws as the basis for denying fair
housing rights to unmarried couples, despite express statutory prohibitions against
"marital status" discrimination.
A person who dies may leave assets to a spouse without
paying any federal estate tax at all. However, the feds impose up to 50% in taxes when a
single person dies with an estate over $2 million. Many states also discriminate against
single people in inheritance taxes. Singles are shortchanged in the social security system
too. They pay the same employment taxes into the system but receive fewer benefits than
married couples do. Workplace benefits for a spouse are tax free, but domestic partner
benefits are generally taxable. Many married couples pay lower income taxes because they
can file a joint return, while unmarried partners do not have this tax-saving option. A
single person may not claim "head of household" status for an unrelated
household dependent. Federal law does not allow a taxpayer to claim an unmarried partner
as an income tax dependent if the couple lives in one of the states with criminal laws
against unmarried cohabitation or fornication. Spouses are exempt from vehicle and real
estate transfer taxes when ownership is transferred, but a single person who transfers
title to a friend or domestic partner must pay the transfer tax.
Many cities have zoning laws which allow an unlimited
number of relatives to live together in a "single family" zone but prohibit a
group of single adults from living in the same area.
Domestic Partnership Laws:
Some states, and a few dozen cities, now have domestic
partner registries in which unmarried couples may publicly declare their family
relationship and gain a few legal protections. However, some of these registries
contain gender restrictions which exclude heterosexual couples from eligibility.
The State of California will not allow unmarried
heterosexual couples under the age of 62 to participate in a domestic partner registration
system which confers hospital visitation rights. Several cities in the nation also have
unfairly excluded unmarried opposite-sex couples from their public registries or employee
benefits programs. Vermont wont allow unmarried heterosexual couples to register
under its "civil union" law, making marriage their only option.
The federal Equal Employment
Opportunity Act does not prohibit marital status discrimination.
Only 21 states have laws that
prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of marital status.
The federal Fair Housing Act does
not prohibit marital status discrimination.
Fewer than half of the states have
laws that prohibit landlords from discriminating on the basis of marital status.
In some of these states, courts have
narrowly interpreted these laws so that unmarried couples do not receive protection from
housing discrimination, e.g., Maryland, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota.
In other states, the courts have
broadly interpreted these laws to give unmarried couples protection from housing
discrimination, e.g., Alaska, California, Michigan New Jersey, and Massachusetts.
Many states have laws prohibiting some forms
of discrimination by insurance companies. However, marital status discrimination
remains largely unregulated.
Unmarried consumers often experience marital status
discrimination. Some auto insurance companies charge higher rates to unmarried
drivers than to married drivers with a similar driving record. Other companies issue joint
auto and renter policies to married couples but wont give the reduced joint-policy
rate to unmarried partners. Some companies wont allow a single person to name an
unrelated adult as a beneficiary on a life insurance policy, on the theory that the
intended beneficiary would not have an insurable interest in the life of the insured.
Federal law, and laws in some
states, prohibit marital status discrimination in credit.