The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday March 24th

Freedom to choose: UNC should follow Duke in exploring gender-neutral housing; state law is draconian, unconstitutional

It is a rare occasion when Duke should be supported. But their students’ efforts to provide gender-neutral rooming are a laudable attempt against antiquated policies.

Draconian rules preventing two individuals of different genders from rooming together are wrong. There is no reason for gender to be a discriminating factor in housing selection. A strong housing policy means letting students room with the right person, even if that person is of a different gender.

This is certainly a more salient issue at Duke, where students have to live on campus for three years. But it is an issue at UNC as well. Policies should make students feel welcome while living on campus — not drive them off.

Perhaps those most disadvantaged by the current housing policy both at Duke and at UNC are transgender individuals. Housing departments at both Duke and UNC work with these students on an ad hoc basis.

But reforming the policy would be a better solution than case-by-case remedies.

The truly embarrassing element in this debate is current state law. North Carolina’s “Fornication and adultery” statute seemingly poses a problem for allowing individuals of different genders to cohabit.

The law states that “if any man and woman, not being married to each other, shall lewdly and lasciviously associate, bed and cohabit together, they shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.”

Individuals convicted under this archaic statute could spend 30 days to six months in prison.

Surely, North Carolina is full of unmarried couples and opposite-sex roommates who will not be prosecuted. But this law must be taken off the books before colleges and universities can really begin considering a change in housing policy.

Interestingly, the law was already challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. N.C. Superior Court Judge Benjamin Alford issued an order in 2006 declaring the law unconstitutional. Nonetheless, it remains on the books.

Personal liberty and choice need to be upheld. The state should get rid of antiquated unconstitutional statutes, and colleges and universities should move forward giving students the freedom they deserve in choosing a roommate.


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