Best Friends Allege They Were Fired After Swapping Wives

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Filed yesterday in Shreveport:

Brandon C.; Michael G. v. Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington and Chief Deputy Charles Owens, No. 5:15-cv-7 (W.D. La. filed Jan. 5, 2014)

Employment discrimination. Plaintiffs were demoted because of their agreement to live with each other's wife after agreeing to get divorces. The living arrangements and divorces were agreed upon by both plaintiffs and both wives.

(Download from Courthouse News, from which I adapted the above)

"Sounds like a reality show," says the submitter (thanks, Andy), and I think there is at least one along those lines.

Seems like they have a case if the allegations are true. According to the complaint, the plaintiffs are "lifelong friends" and in the course of socializing, each of them fell in love with the other's wife and the wives felt similarly. (The description of this includes what I assume is a typo about who fell in love with whom; you can understand how it would get a little confusing.) The new living arrangements have been established; divorces are planned but have not yet been obtained.

Although everyone involved is said to be perfectly happy with the situation, the plaintiffs allege that their employers were not, and "placed them both on unpaid administrative leave due to their co-habitation with a woman who is not their wife." (I'd have said "placed each on leave due to his co-habitation with a woman who is not his wife," but again, you can see how it would get confusing.) Plaintiffs also allege they were told that if and when they returned to work, they would be demoted, and would have to "cease all contact" with the former co-habitors until such time as they obtained divorces.

To my great surprise, Louisiana isn't one of the few states in which co-habitation (or as it's often amusingly called, "fornication") is still technically illegal. But it also doesn't have a law specifically prohibiting discrimination based on marital status (or lack of it). That's probably why this is a federal civil rights action alleging that the discrimination is based on religion and violates their right to privacy and freedom of association. As courts in a couple of other states have held, laws that make co-habitation illegal are unconstitutional under the reasoning of Lawrence v. Texas, so I think the plaintiffs probably win this one.

Bigamy (like polygamy) is illegal and, for whatever reason, that's not unconstitutional yet. So make sure you do terminate the first legal arrangement before you sign another one. Short of that, though, I think you should feel free to fornicate.