New Marriage Law Could Allow Children To Wed (Outdated headline)

( A Tennessee lawmaker who recently introduced a bill that would create a “common-law” marriage contract limited to “one man” and “one woman” had to add an amendment to the bill this week after critics claimed the legislation would have allowed children to marry.

The bill, HB 233, was introduced by Republican State Rep. Tom Leatherwood. The original text of the bill made no mention of an age requirement for the new “common-law marriage” contract it created. Critics argued that without an explicit age requirement, the legislation could pave the way for child marriages. So an amendment was added to the bill to correct that oversight.

Leatherwood said the outrage over the lack of an age requirement was disingenuous and critics were using the claim as a way to work against a bill. He said he opposes child marriages.

As written, Leatherwood explained, the bill would not affect marriage laws in the state. Instead, it only adds an alternative process for getting married. According to Leatherwood, the purpose of the law is to address concerns from pastors and parishioners who, for religious reasons, believe marriage should only be between a man and a woman. This bill creates a marriage certificate reflecting that.

In short, the bill would create a marriage contract that does not have to be filed with the state.

Leatherwood argued that the bill was never intended to allow minors to be able to marry. But he did concede that he understands how some people may have interpreted it that way.

The amendment, Leatherwood explained, “explicitly states that both parties have to obtain the age of majority” to enter into the marriage contract. In Tennessee code, the age of majority is 18.

Even with the amendment in place, Leatherwood’s bill is facing harsh opposition from Democrat lawmakers.

Democrat State Representative Johnny Garrett vehemently opposes the bill over what he sees as its unintended consequences.

Garrett has argued that since the bill would not require marriages to be filed with the state, there is nothing to stop someone from marrying multiple people using this marriage contract.