Missouri City Bans Unmarried Cohabitants

couple moving boxesBlack Jack, Missouri’s city council has banned unwed couples with children to live within their city’s limits (another wire version of story).

The current ordinance prohibits more than three people from living together unless they are related by “blood, marriage or adoption.” The defeated measure would have changed the definition of a family to include unmarried couples with two or more children.

Olivia Shelltrack and Fondrey Loving were denied an occupancy permit after moving into a home in this St. Louis suburb because they have three children and are not married.

One needs an occupancy PERMIT to live in this town. I can see what the real estate agent or landlord says upon signing a lease: “Not to intrude on your privacy but I was wondering if you are married? Because the ordinance demands that in order to live here you must be married or I can’t sell/rent this property to you.”

Government at any level should not be forcing any moral or religious values on any citizen. Has the Taliban invaded Black Jack?

Interesting little tidbit I found was that the population of Black Jack according to Wikipedia is 71 percent African-American.

I understand that most black children live in single parent homes but laws like this discourage families in being together. Who cares if mommy and daddy aren’t married? Be grateful that they are together as a family!

What is next on the city council proposed ordinance list in Black Jack, Missouri?

  • Travelling unwed couples with children can not stay in any hotel or motel within city limits?
  • Parents must show proof of insurance, social security cards, children’s birth certificates, driver’s license and marriage certificate if pulled over in city limits?
  • Create a Division of Marriage Enforcement to ensure that all couples who reside within the city limits are properly married (Does Missouri have Common law marriages and would this count too?)
  • Create a Division of Procreation and Preservation of the Married Lifestyle to ensure that all couples who engage intercourse are married and that children who were conceived after their marriage date?

Welcome to Black Jack, Missouri!: “Where We Are Family and Only For Families.”

Update by Stephen VanDyke: It should also be noted that this ordinance would effectively ban single parents from finding roommates (hey, how do they know they aren’t sleeping together?).

  1. I lived and went to college in a small “college town” in Maryland. Before I moved away last year, there was debate over an ordinance called “4 to 2”. So called because the ordinance was to reduce the number of non-related persons allowed to live together from “4 to 2.” There was no debate among the pols. The only opposition was from landlords who were branded as greedy slumlords who were destroying the family atmosphere of the city. The only debate was just how restrictive and widespread it would be. Some wanted it to only affect certain zones (mostly near the college). Others wanted every house in the county. They created all kinds of new landlord regulations and made definitions of “family” ( to their credit? I believe an unwed couple with children would be considered “family” in this case). The main aim of this town was to drive down rents for “families” and IMO possibly force more students into overpriced dorms. I shared a 4BR house with friends. I could not have afforded school…

  2. ..Otherwise. It was basicaly aimed specifically at students and landlords. Of course, the university drives the entire economy of the county. It is the economy pretty much. Landlords could buy 3-4BR houses on the cheap and rent them out to 3-4 students ( or 3-4 non-student roommates, a couple sets of single-mothers,whatever)who shared rent. Everyone involved was happy. I guess the county thinks if its illegal to rent a 4BR to 4 roommates, the landlord will be forced to rent to a “family” for $200-300 less. Of course, I don’t think its anyone’s business who lives in your house. I’m rambling here… While the “reasons” or motivations why any town would do something like this may be different, My point was that stupid regulations like this are not rare. Local governments like to tell people where they can live, what they can do with their own property,etc. And in the case of landlording, basically mandate housing discrimination by law.(what, no EHO?)

  3. As a resident of the state of Missouri, it pains me to see this sort of thing happen. Obviously, the Black Jack school district must do a shoddy-assed job of teaching the Constitution…

  4. I had to kick a roomate out of a house back when I was in graduate school due to a similar law. The ironic thing was that 4 unrelated people could live in an apartment — just not in a house.

    (The impetus was more about housing value and “sanitation” as the law was written.)

  5. There was a law like this when I lived in Arizona. Unmarried people couldn’t legally live together (even if they didn’t have kids) and three or more unrelated women living together was defined as a brothel. Needless to say it was never actually enforced.

    The permit is a unique way to try to regulate. They know it would never stand up in a civil or criminal case by jury, so they become the judge, jury and enforcer.

  6. The city of Black Jack is violating the substantive due process rights of Shelltrack, Loving and their children. They have a right to define who is “family” and who may live in their home.
    In Moore v. East Cleveland, 431 US 494 (1977), the US Supreme Court invalidated a zoning ordinance limiting occupancy of a dwelling to members of a single “family.” The Court in this case stated that the “Constitution prevents East Cleveland from standardizing its children – and its adults – by forcing all to live in certain narrowly defined family patterns.”
    This ordinance will never survive a court battle – the highest Court in our country has spoken definitively on this matter, and Missouri courts are bound to follow.
    How terrible this all is for that family.

  7. I’m sure that the same “libertarians” who say

    (a) it is legitimate for private businesses open to the public to discriminate on the basis of race for the purposes of service and employment

    (b) think it is legitimate for an employer to own an employee’s right to free speech and political exercise

    will think that this is just fine. In my state, I’m not sure a town could do this. But since “libertarians” love decentralization and “voluntaryism” they will say that the state goverment shouldn’t intrude on the business of a local community, and that anyone who “chooses” to live in this community is doing so will full knowledge of its laws.

    Again, this is where the importance of civil rights legislation makes itself apparent.

  8. Mr. Phillies: Don’t you know that the ACLU is a “socialist” organization? Haven’t you seen the nifty t-shirts with the hammer and sickle in place of the “C” in ACLU in ads on “libertarian” web sites linked from this very own site?

    When I see those ads I’m very sad. I love liberty, I am in 99% accordance with the LP platform. And yet at least 50% of its members are the type of people I would just as soon spit on as say hello to.

  9. If I am reading correctly, they would allow an unmarried couple with 1 child, because that would only be 3 occupants.

    So I’m not convinced the law was made to discriminate against unmarried couples.

  10. maybe Black Jack residents do not agree with Hilari when she says that it takes a village to raise a child and would rather have parents raising their own offspring. too bad that great ideas like marrying before having children are made to look fanatical when exasperated citizens wrongly turn to the government to try to improve society.

  11. They are trying to prevent boarding houses. The loss of boarding houses is a primary cause of homelessness.

    This is one of those ordinances that is used selectively. If the chess club rented a house and stayed up late playing chess, it would rarely be reported or enforced. The purpose is to have an excuse to kick people out for being rowdy or unsightly (in the case of the otherwise homeless).

    As usual, it is completely unfair on its face, selectively enforced, and probably illegal.

  12. What it all boils down to is any gov’t at any level should not be able to tell you what you can and can’t do with your property unless you are hurting someone else or their property. Having unwed people with children on their own property is not hurting anyone else so they have every right to live on their property as they wish.

    I hate all of this “I am for the family talk”, when what they really mean is I am only for the family if it looks just like mine. If not we will force you to leave or change so that it looks just like ours. This is pure discrimination and is beginning to remind me of how we treated blacks and other minorities in the past. Part of the problem is that it is now sometimes these same minorities that are doing the discriminating, though in general it still seems to be the right-wing white person leading the charge. This has nothing to do with protecting families. It has everything to do with power and control.

  13. Black Jack, the town that enacted the ordiance is a 10 minute drive from my house. The ordinance in question is primarily designed to keep blacks out of town.

    Black Jack is a north county suburb of St Louis with a median income of close to $70,000 per household.

    For years the middle class suburbs of St Louis were white only enclaves. I grew up the Florissant,the town next to Black Jack which was once 100% white, and my own parents actually made a verbal agreement with the realtor to never sell their home to a black person.

    In the early 1980s a few middle class black families managed to break the North County color line and moved into my own community Florissant and the other surrounding towns.Those towns are now intergrated and anywhere between 30-50% black.

    Black Jack was always the last bastion of segration in North County. Their solution? Keep blacks out with restrictive zoning codes passed in the name of Christianity, morality,& family values. Gimme that old time hypocrisy!

  14. the subdivision I’m in now doesn’t let more than 3 unrelated people live in a rented house. lucky for me my roommates are my two brothers. I don’t think it’s a city-wide law though, just this subdivision somehow. and it’s designed to keep rental houses from filling up with tons of college students likely to through massive parties and things. I think if you buy the house though, it’s yours to do whatever with.

  15. “Don’t you know that the ACLU is a ‘socialist’ organization?”

    The ACLU is not socialist. It is a mostly liberal organization and takes a libertarian like position over 1/2 the time, from what I gather.

  16. Keith: Read the rest of my post. The reason “socialist” appeared in quotes is because it was in sarcasm.

  17. And how much of this is aimed at immigrants? We had something very like that law almost pass in Fairfax County, Virginia before it was stopped, and it was quite clear without much ‘official’ explanation that it was aimed at all the immigrant families in the area, who sometimes fit two families inside a house meant for one.

  18. uncercover_anarchist is no anarachist. He/she accepts the most centralized government possible… hardly a good first step toward “anarchy”. Undercover, indeed.


  20. Misfit

    Why are you so angry? Did your parents mistreat you? Are you an orphan raised in a orphanage and were you beat every day? I’ll bet you are rebelling against your parents. One of them may even be a member of the clergy.

  21. Like Mr. Collins, I live fairly close to Black Jack, and find this abhorrent, although not surprising. Many municipalities in St. Louis County require occupancy permits, including Greendale of which I was formerly Marshal. Most do not have odious stipulations, although Greendale limits the number of occupants based on square footage of the home. Greendale is firmly middle-class and about 75% black. FWIW, there appears to be no discrimination in enforcement of housing codes, but monthly municipal court is made up of about 95% black defendants charged with traffic offenses by the primarily white police force of the community next door (when the current Mayor was first elected she appointed a new, black Judge because of concern over discrimination, but it seems to me the Judge is not the problem). Incidentally, Black Jack is home to a former boss, an African-American Ph.D., her attorney husband and their 2 kids – I wonder if she’s aware of this development?

  22. Julian: Yes, I am furious. Yes, I was assaulted by a clergy person; and yes, my father was a violent drunk. I am not flaming here and I am sorry if I offend – I mean that sincerely. So to remain topical; Religion has assaulted humanity over the centuries in horrendous fashion. See Sam Harris’ book “The End of Faith”.

    Do I think there are good religious people? Of course. Christ, Mother Theresa and Gandhi come to mind, but the glaring violent attacks levied by religion against freedom are unquestionable. In the end, I am begging for an end to these morality based laws.

    Also, for being a veteran – I thank you.

  23. misfit
    all laws are based on morality. some things are right and some things are wrong. where does man’s inherent sense of conscience come from? animals act only in their own best interest and according to instincts, but we humans can play music.

  24. How do I accept the most “centralized government authority” possible? Because I believe people should be able to sue if discriminated against on the basis of race in public accomodation or employment? How much centralized authority does this require? No more than the same lawsuit being brought about against one who trespasses on another’s property or breaks a contract. In fact, a jury so inclined could nullify any of this… Ultimate democracy, ultimate decentralization. That’s what I’m about.

  25. TO CHRIS BENNETT, fyi from my own Chest Fever blog:

    Misfit said…

    Saw your added comment on HammerofTruth. I had already written a pissed off rant prior to reading. I think you have it dead right. I just wished I had read your piece first before blowing up. This country (I’m in MO too) is racist as hell. KC (in my opinion) voted out commuter small rail to keep blacks from easy access to the downtown business district.

    GAVIN MICHAEL COLLINS (Chest Fever) said…

    I got some facts wrong and it was entirely my own fault.

    I apologize for getting the facts wrong on the Black Jack situation and wanted to set the record straight in my own blog as to the truth of what was going on in Black Jack. Chris did a great post in HammerofTruth and his piece was as good as any mainstream piece on the Black Jack.

    I just came across that piece in Hammer of Truth when I was just waking up and got my wires crossed on the demographics in Black Jack.

  26. If you own your own home, then as long as you are not raping, killing and/or eating people or conspiring to over throw America, it should not matter who lives in your house. This sould go in front of the supreme court as it is truly discriminatory in nature and most probably unconstitutional. I say move in as many unwed people as your house can hold (safely) in an effort to stage a showing of disapproval. I thought we lived in America and not some other dictator style country. I am a real estate investor and now that I know this law exists (anywhere) I will go out of my way not to invest in the property listed in such discriminatory areas of America. Also, real estate agents that cater to this concept should lose their liscense. The judge, jury, police, and townspeople who support this concept should live in a commune secluded from the rest of the world. Back ass people.