Bill Amended Following Backlash Over Child Marriage Concerns
Tennessee lawmakers were forced to amend a controversial common-law marriage bill after the original draft received intense backlash for doing away with age requirements for marriages.
The bill, HB 233, would establish common-law marriage between “one man” and “one woman,” but the original proposal didn’t include a minimum age requirement. Critics said it could open up the possibility of child marriages.
“It should not be there as it’s basically a get out of jail free card for people who are basically committing statutory rape—I mean it’s completely ridiculous, so that’s another reason why this terrible bill should be eliminated,” said Rep. Mike Stewart (D), who serves on the subcommittee that passed the legislation.
An amendment added an age limit of 18. State Rep. Tom Leatherwood (R), the bill’s sponsor, said the backlash consisted of “some legitimate concerns, others were looking for indirect ways to work against the bill and that’s fine, that’s the political process.”
Current Tennessee law states that the minimum age for marriage is 17 with parental consent.
There isn’t a federal law that sets age requirements for marriages and states are allowed to set their own parameters. According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), child marriage is currently legal in 44 states and nearly 300,000 children were married between 2000 and 2018.
Only six states have banned child marriage, including Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York.