Republicans in Tennessee are pushing a bill through the GOP-controlled legislature that would establish an “alternative form of marriage,” creating a class of common-law marriage that would be limited to heterosexual people and circumvent age limits.
The bill HB 233It would allow children of all ages to marry. The bill’s main sponsor, Republican state Rep. Tom Leatherwood, told WKRN that the bill would create “an alternative form of marriage for those pastors and other individuals who have a conscientious objection to the current pathway to marriage in our law.” He has confirmed that “[t]here is not an explicit age limit.”
Only heterosexual people would be allowed to be married under the new class of marriage, which defines marriage as being between “one man” and “one woman.” It was likely filed as a homophobic response toA ruling against Kim Davis, a former Kentucky clerk last month, in which a federal judge found that Davis had violated couples’ constitutional rights when she refused to marry them because they were gay.
“I don’t think any normal person thinks we shouldn’t have an age requirement for marriage,” said Democratic state Rep. Mike Stewart, adding that Republicans are essentially seeking to give people a free pass for “statutory rape.”
Along with survivors of sexual assault and gender-based violent violence survivors, lawmakers have raised concerns about the possibility that children could be abused if there is no age limit on marriage. Some states have been looking at raising their taxes in recent years. age limit for marriageTo prevent child abuse.
“The Sexual Assault Center does not believe the age of consent for marriage should be any younger than it already is,” the Sexual Assault Center of Middle Tennessee told WKRN. “It makes children more vulnerable to coercion and manipulation from predators, sexual and other.”
Research starting in 2021 foundBetween 2000 and 2018, nearly 300,000 children were mated in the United States. Although consent is required in most states to marry, it can be granted that children as young as 16 years old with parental consent. many states — meaning that a child could potentially be coerced into marriage with their rapist. Only Five statesCurrently, children are not allowed to marry.
Republicans across the country including in Tennessee, have been passing bills specifically targeting LGBTQ youths; advocates claim that these bills could also lead to child abuse. Tennessee GOP lawmakers have passed especially strictBills specifically targeting transgender kids ban them from participating with sports that align with the gender of their gender, and bars school districts from freely educating about sexual orientation and gender.
Florida is home to Republicans passed a bill last year that would allow adults to inspect children’s genitals if they think that the child is transgender. The bill would make children vulnerable to both sexual abuse and discrimination.