May 19, 2006
Unmarried couples with children denied occupancy permits
Nearly forty years ago, a man named Loving challenged miscegenation laws that prohibited his marriage. Now, another Loving is finding himself in the midst of legal struggles over marriage. This time the law would require that he marry -- at least if he wants to live with his children and their mother in single-family housing. The community of Black Jack, Missouri, outside of St. Louis, voted to maintain its zoning restrictions that prohibit more than three people from living together in single-family housing unless they are related by "blood, marriage or adoption." On the basis of this law, Black Jack Missouri has denied occupancy permits to unmarried residents. Among them, Olivia Shelltrack and her partner of 13 years, Fondray Loving. The couple have three children, one from Shelltrack's previous relationship, and moved into their five-bedroom, three-bath home in January.
(This isn't the first time the St. Louis area's single-family zoning restrictions have been the subject of signficant legal scrutiny. In Association for Educational Development v. Hayward, 533 S.W.2d 579 (Mo. 1976) a house occupied by several lay members of the Opus Dei organization was the center of a debate over whether the rectory exception in the zoning ordinance should extend to cover their living arrangements. The Missouri Supreme Court held that the city was not required to allow a group of religiously motivated laymen to reside in a residential zone merely because it allowed a group of clergymen to reside there. Limiting the rectory exception in the zoning ordinance to persons who practiced religion as a regular vocation was not wholly arbitrary and provided fixed criteria for its application and thus did not deprive the residents of their first amendment rights.)
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