North Dakota’s state senators passed a bill Friday that, if it passes in the House of Representatives, would remove "unlawful cohabitation" from the state’s list of sex crimes, where it has been since the territory became a state in 1889. Specifically, it currently appears at Chapter 12.1-20-10, right between adultery and incest.
As it stands, the law makes it a class B misdemeanor sex crime to live "openly and notoriously with a person of the opposite sex as a married couple without being married to the other person." As originally introduced, SB 2138 would have repealed that entirely. But, apparently feeling that a leap forward to the 20th Century was enough for now, senators amended the bill instead, so that cohabitation is now a crime only if one of the cohabitors "falsely represents the couple’s status as being married to each other." So now you can do it, but it’s a crime to try to cover it up. SB 2138 would at least move the offense out of the list of sex crimes, making it just boring old fraud.
The new bill still does not define what it means to live with someone "notoriously." I suppose that’s one of those things that you can’t define, but you know it when you see it. It’s also apparently not a crime to pretend that you are married to someone of the same sex, I guess on the theory that since North Dakota’s constitution now bans same-sex marriage, you wouldn’t be able to fool anybody anyway.
Also a class B misdemeanor in North Dakota: displaying the flag of any country other than the U.S. or a "friendly foreign nation." Ch. 12.1-07-03. (List of "friendly" nations not provided, but these days I wouldn’t go much further than the U.K. and El Salvador if I were you.)
Also on North Dakota’s legislative agenda this term: making it illegal to strangle somebody. Senate Bill 2185, as introduced, would have defined the crime of "strangulation" and made it a felony. The bill would also have clarified that it matters how you do your strangling. Strangling somebody with an object would have been a class C felony, but class B if you use your own hands or if you had strangled somebody before. Sadly, in a victory for the serial-strangler lobby, this bill was gutted and instead a watered-down definition of strangulation was added to the existing definition of "serious bodily injury." Neither version of the bill explains what loophole in North Dakota law has been
letting people get away with strangulation before now, but if that’s on
your to-do list you better hurry — the amended bill passed unanimously.