GOP lawmakers in Tennessee killed a bill to ban child marriages in an effort to bolster a conservative lawyer’s case against the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, The Tennessean reported Wednesday.
The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Darren Jernigan, calls for the state to outlaw marriages where one of the parties is under 18 years of age.
Jernigan, and Senate sponsor Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, pointed out a loophole in February that gives a judge discretion to grant marriage certificates to underage individuals with no minimum age limit.
In 2016, 42 men and 166 women under the age of 18 were married in the state, The Tennessean reported.
Nonprofit group Unchained at Last says it has found at least three marriages in Tennessee involving a child as young as 10 years old.
Jernigan and other supporters of the bill say the loophole led to female minors being married to significantly older men, where they face higher chances of being abused.
Jernigan said it was disgraceful that Casada was citing Fowler’s theory to fight same-sex marriage as the reason to block the child marriage ban.
“Basically, what has happened is the Family Action Council wants to continue to let 13-year-olds get married in the state at the sake of their court case against same-sex couples,” Jernigan said. “It’s disgraceful. I’m embarrassed for the State of Tennessee, and I can only pray that we bring this back next year and not let them get in the way.”
According to the report, Republicans killed the bill after an receiving an email from attorney David Fowler, a former state senator who is currently the president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, a Christian-based advocacy group against same-sax marriage.