[Dorothy rushes into the kitchen carrying a letter]
Dorothy: Girls, girls! You won’t believe the letter I just got! It’s from the city; they say we can’t live together under one roof anymore.
Rose: Oh no! How are we going to afford a second roof?
[Dorothy starts rolling up the paper to hit Rose with it; thinks better of it and bites her fist]
Dorothy: No, you idiot! We can’t all live in the same house because we aren’t family.
Blanche: Oh hush now, you’re all family to me!
Rose: Dorothy, why don’t you think we’re family?
Dorothy: I know we’re family; try convincing Miami. It’s this new local law; because we aren’t related, we can’t all live in the same house anymore.
[Dorothy’s mother Sophia enters the kitchen; she is in her 80s with glasses and a white perm; she looks confused]
Sophia: Dorothy, you’re not going to believe what I just heard.
Dorothy: Ma, I’m right in the middle of telling the girls—
Sophia: I’m playing canasta at the rec center, and I hear someone tell me about a new city law that says we can’t live together?
Dorothy: Ma, that’s what I’m trying to tell—
Sophia: It reminds me of this law they tried to pass back in the old country.
Dorothy: Oh Ma! Not now!!!
Sophia [continuing]: Picture it! Sicily! 1923—it was none other than Mussolini himself—
Sophia: Well anyway, it ends with a local politician getting a one-way ticket to the aquarium!
Rose: Sophia, I didn’t know they fly round trips to the aquarium!
[Dorothy bites her knuckles in frustration]
Sophia: Dorothy, don’t you want to know why Mussolini avoided aquariums?
Dorothy: Let me guess, Ma, he kept sleeping with the fishes?
[Sophia is about to answer when Blanche interrupts]
Blanche: Oh Sophia, hush! We don’t have time for any more stories! Why can’t we live together, Dorothy?
Sophia: What Dorothy is trying to say is that Miami wants us to end up in an old folks’ home. I’m not going back to Shady Pines, terrible room service.
Rose: It’s just like that Nordic legend.
[Rose waits for one of the girls to ask her about the Nordic legend; none take the bait]
According to ancient Nordic legend, Gildehandefjurd is where elderly warriors who never died in battle spend their retirement years.
Blanche: So … an old folks’ home?
Sophia: Sounds like if The Seventh Seal starred the cast of Cocoon.
Rose: My point is, without this place, we’ll end up like those poor Gildehandefjurd-volk. Living out our twilight years surrounded by other old people.
Blanche [squinting]: What do you mean other old people??
Rose: Dorothy, does it say why we can’t live together if we’re not legally family?
Dorothy: No! It doesn’t even give us that! But I’ve heard about this happening before. My ex Stanley told me that in Boca they did the same thing because a small group of neighbors and city officials thought allowing people who aren’t blood relatives to live together could, I think they said “pose a risk to public health or safety”—something like that.
Blanche: We—we’re a risk to public health or safety??
Sophia: Unless its Fleet Week, even Blanche isn’t a danger to this community.
Rose: Dorothy, why do they think we’re a risk to public safety?
Dorothy: We’re not; but Miami is saying enough unrelated people living together do pose that risk.
Blanche: Have they met Miami?! I can’t count the number of times I went upstairs with a grown man, only to find he had another full-grown man or two right there in the apartment with him.
Sophia: I don’t think anyone could count that high.
Dorothy: Ma! Enough!
Rose: Well, Dorothy, what are we going to do?! We can’t afford to live separately.
Dorothy: Well, I guess we’ll have to fly under the radar.
Sophia: I’ve been on the lam before, Dorothy! I am not going back to that life.
Dorothy: Oh Ma, I’m sure we’re far from the only ones who are just going to ignore this new rule.
Rose: But Dorothy, we could get in big trouble!
Dorothy: Well, it’s not like we have many options, Rose. If Miami is making it this difficult for a couple older ladies …
Dorothy: Blanche, please! Yes: We. Are. Old.
Blanche: Oh hush!
Rose: No, Blanche, Dorothy is right. We’re no spring chickens. [Reminiscent face]. Actually, that reminds me of the best—and worst—farm festival back in St. Olaf….
Sophia: Here we go!
Dorothy: Oh Ma, you’re one to talk. Five minutes ago, you were talking about Mussolini and aquariums!
Dorothy [yelling]: That is it! Girls, I am going down to City Hall right now and fighting this thing!
Blanche: Ooh, can I come? I might be having a little thing going on with a couple councilmen [sly smirk].
Sophia: Well, now that gives me an idea on how we can change the city council’s mind.
Blanche: Oh, Sophia please! I meant I’ve been lobbying them to finally knock down that old, empty house across the street from us!
Rose: I still don’t see how we are a public risk?
Sophia: I shoplifted again today.
Dorothy [looks shocked]: Ma, again?
Sophia: What? I’m old, I’m confused!
If you’re wondering how you could have possibly missed this episode of The Golden Girls, the truth is this wasn’t a real episode. But if the City of Shawnee, Kansas, has its way, a law banning unrelated roommates like the Miami foursome will become all too real.
As of 2017, more than 32% of U.S. adults live with roommates. In a time when housing is limited and has become unaffordable for most, having roommates cuts down on expenses and enables far more people to have a roof over their heads.
The city council’s new “co-living ban” ordinance will prohibit more than three unrelated people from living together. This is a major affront to property rights and other liberty interests, like the right to establish a home. And Pacific Legal Foundation is helping our clients fight back.
HomeRoom is a property management company that connects homeowners with people looking for roommates through strategic vetting and matchmaking that optimizes harmonious communal living spaces. This ordinance will not only hurt their business, it will also hurt the many people who cannot afford to live without roommates.
Whether it’s the people of Shawnee or everyone’s favorite Golden Girls, the Constitution protects the right of homeowners and individuals to arrange whatever living situation meets their personal needs—without interference from the government.