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Bob McDonnell backs ‘Love Shack’ bill

RICHMOND — Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, who took a dim view of “cohabitators, homosexuals [and] fornicators” in his master’s thesis, supports repealing an old law that makes it illegal for unmarried couples to live together in Virginia.

The Republican said in a radio interview Tuesday that he agrees with a bill to scrap a 19th-century law against cohabitation.

“It’s an antiquated law, and it shouldn’t be subject to criminal penalties,” McDonnell said on WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” program.

McDonnell (R) made the comment one day after a Senate panel approved a bill repealing an 877 law prohibiting “any persons, not married to each other, [to] lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together.”

McDonnell is a social conservative, but one who has tried to put kitchen-table issues on the front burner since running for governor under the slogan “Bob’s for Jobs!”

Some of his strict social views became an issue in the 2009 governor’s race, when the master’s thesis he’d written decades earlier as an evangelical student surfaced. Among other things, he wrote that government policy should favor married couples over “cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators.” He also criticized as “illogical” a Supreme Court decision legalizing the use of contraception by unmarried couples.

When the thesis came to light, McDonnell said that his views had evolved since he’d penned it.

On the radio Tuesday, McDonnell said that some people still have moral objections to cohabitation, but that it should no longer be illegal.

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) brought the measure to legalize cohabitation, a measure since dubbed the “Love Shack” bill.

Ebbin has said he was not aware of any recent prosecutions under the law. But state officials used it as recently as the early 1990s to threaten revocation of a Norfolk day-care provider’s license because she lived with her boyfriend.

Only three other states still have cohabitation laws on the books: Mississippi, Michigan and Florida.

It is not clear if the bill will face opposition from conservative groups. The Family Foundation of Virginia has said it is “monitoring” the legislation.

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.

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