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Friday, August 11, 2006

Taking the Offensive in a War on Moms

Technorati tags: , , , , , the town of is about to be dragged into the

So far, I've written five posts about the plight of Olivia Shelltrack and Fondray Loving. They live in the community of Black Jack, MO , but that community doesn't want them to. Why? They aren't married. As far as the civil leaders of that enlightened community are concerned, Shelltrack and Loving have three choices - get married, pay $500 per day as a fine, or get the hell out. Reuters reports that the couple have come up with a fourth option - fight back:

A Missouri couple who must get married or move in order to comply with a housing ordinance in Black Jack, Missouri, sued the town on Thursday, claiming rules prohibiting the unmarried couple and their children from living together are unconstitutional.

The petition, filed in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, challenges a Black Jack city ordinance that prohibits more than three people from living together in the same house if they are unrelated by blood, marriage or adoption.

Plaintiffs Olivia Shelltrack and Fondray Loving and their children moved from Minnesota to Missouri earlier this year, buying a five-bedroom home in the tiny community outside St. Louis.

Shelltrack and Loving have lived together about 13 years and have two children together, along with a 15-year-old daughter of Shelltrack's from a previous relationship.

Black Jack, a town of about 7,000 that prides itself on a city Web site for its "character and stability," refused to grant the couple and their children an occupancy permit for their home because they do not meet the definition of "family" as set forth by the city, the complaint alleges.

Brenda Jones, executive director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, issued a statement which said in part, "The city of Black Jack's behavior is both pompous and unconstitutional. Black Jack's attempt to criminalize people's choice to live together as a family has earned international ridicule for Missouri." And it has, a search of google news shows results from The Guardian in the UK and China Daily.

City Attorney Sheldon Stock told Reuters that the law was necessary to preserve 'neighborhood character'. "It all goes to the definition of family," Stock said. "These laws are all over the country. These laws are trying to preserve neighborhood character."

'Everybody's doing it' is a pretty shitty defense. In North Carolina, a similar law was struck down as unconstitutional last month. There was a time when laws requiring poll taxes, barring interracial marriage, and allowing slavery were on the books 'all over the country'.

I've gotten some responses defending this sort of zoning. I'm told it's necessary to keep out boarding houses or even bordellos. But it seems awfully easy to write 'no boarding houses' into zoning laws and prostitution's already illegal. What are the police going to do, stand outside a whorehouse and say, "We'd like to do something about it, but there's no zoning law against it," like zoning laws supercede all other laws?

In the end, the only reason a law like this would have to exist is to make families like the Loving/Shelltrack family illegal.