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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Repealing a Law Against Unwed Motherhood

Technorati: , , , and get to backpedal - with the help of the and

Holy crap, we have good news for once! What is the world coming to? From Associated Press:

The city council in this St. Louis suburb has revised an ordinance that prohibited some unmarried couples from obtaining housing permits, a measure that drew scrutiny and debate nationwide.

The council voted 7-0 Tuesday to change the definition of a family. The vote came a week after the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit over the city's failure to provide a housing permit for an unmarried couple, Fondray Loving and Olivia Shelltrack.

"This is just great for our family and other families," Shelltrack told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I just hope this brings comfort to families who had to go through what we did, even if they no longer live in the city. There is just some relief now."

The ordinance had prohibited more than three people from living together in a single-family home unless they are related by "blood, marriage, or adoption." Loving is the biological father of two of the couple's three children.

The revised ordinance extends the definition of a family to include unrelated people and the children of both or either person who live together as a single housekeeping unit. The amendment would make the family eligible for an occupancy permit.

Originally, the ordinance was defended as a measure to prevent overcrowding by banning boardinghouses. But why is writing 'no boardinghouses' into law impossible? Are Shelltrack and Loving charging the kids rent?

While Black Jack's official reason for the law was overcrowding, the actual reason was put into question when a city council member wondered aloud at a hearing why Shelltrack didn't just marry Loving. The board was accused - by this blog as well as others - as supporting the law as a ban on unwed motherhood. Given the opportunity to bring the law into agreement with the twentieth century - if not the twenty-first - the city council declined.

Shelltrack and Loving then contacted the ACLU and the Federal Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It was probably the threat of an ACLU lawsuit and the scrutiny of HUD that finally pushed the council into a 7-0 vote to change the law.

According to AP, "Gerald Greiman, a lawyer for the family, said he was happy with the ordinance change but was still reviewing it to decide whether the lawsuit would be dropped."

I've been following this story pretty much since this young blog began. To read up on its history, click here for a list of my posts on the subject.

Score one for the good guys. It hasn't been happening a lot lately.