The state of Louisiana lets underage girls get married to adult men, and Republicans don't seem inclined to change that.
Conservative Louisiana lawmakers just killed an effort to set a minimum age for marriage in the state. One justification? Because "a lot of 16-year-olds are very mature," as one Republican representative put it.
As the law stands now, there are no age restrictions on getting married in Louisiana. Minors ages 16 and 17 have to get consent from parents, and those under 16 need parental consent and the approval of a juvenile court judge.
The Louisiana Senate passed a measure put forth by Sen. Yvonne Dorsey Colomb, a Baton Rouge Democrat. That bill would have barred anyone under 16 from being able to marry, period. 16- and 17-year olds would be able to marry, but not to anyone more than four years older.
Republicans in the Louisiana House, however, didn't like that and rewrote it to allow anyone under 16 to get married as long as they underwent a judicial review process. Their arguments on behalf of teen marriage were predictably outrageous.
One Republican representative, Beryl Amedee, explained that the only reason she didn't get married at 15, as she'd met her husband at 14, was that they thought they should get high school diplomas before they got married. It isn't clear how that is an argument in favor of letting people of any age marry, but Amedee put it forth as one.
Amadee also defended child marriage by saying, "Marriage is still a valid and valuable institution," and arguing that allowing people of any age to marry would prevent abortions. How? Because if a child couldn't get married, a parent might take them to have an abortion, so allowing teen marriages would stop that from happening.
Another Republican, Rep. Nancy Landry, is the person who said that teen marriage was fine because many 16-year-olds are "very mature." And if two 16-year-olds have sex and are about to have a baby, she said, "just as a public policy of the state we want children born into wedlock, if possible."
Almost all the examples given by Republicans involved situations where two teenagers want to get married. However, in Louisiana, it's far more common that underage girls end up married to adult men. A PBS Frontline report found that between 2000 and 2010, over 4,300 minors were legally married in Louisiana, including someone as young as 12. Of those marriages, over 80% were between young girls and adult men.
The rewritten bill — the one allowing for marriage at any age — now heads back to the Senate, where hopefully more mature heads prevail.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.