Alexandria City Council to reconsider several old laws

Alexandrians are awfully proud of their city’s 265-year-old history, as the chosen home of George Washington, its occupation by the British in the War of 1812 and on to its participation in the fight for civil rights in the latter half of the 20th century.

But apparently there is a limit to how sacred Alexandria residents hold their history.

The Alexandria City Council agreed to member Justin Wilson’s proposal Tuesday that some historic laws needed to be left in the dustbin of that history.

Wilson’s proposal, which passed on first reading, would kill off a long-ignored statute — approved in 1952 and updated in 1963 — that requests that some streets be named after Confederate military leaders “insofar as possible,” as well as removing a ban on cohabitating couples who live together for “lewd and lascivious” purposes. There is also the ban on shoeshine stands, known as the “boot black” statute.

“Everyone is going to find one that attracts their imagination,” Wilson said. “These are the ones that are easy — irrelevant to today, anachronistic or illegal. They’re worth a good laugh, but these things actually matter. . . . As recently as 2003, a local landlord referred to that [cohabitation law] in a lease.”

Wilson did not propose that Alexandria alter existing street names, the Associated Press reported. The city has streets named for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, among others.

“I think we struggle in the city with our history,” Wilson said.

City attorney James Banks said this is just the start of the code cleanup, and he welcomed citizen input as staff members look at the rest of the legal code. The proposal will come up for a public hearing and final vote Jan. 25.

Patricia Sullivan seeks out news about Alexandria and Arlington County for the Washington Post.
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