There is currently no minimum age requirement to get married in the state of Louisiana, and some conservative lawmakers aim to keep it that way.
Under current law, minors younger than 16 are allowed to legally marry if they undergo a judicial review. If one or both partners are aged 16 or 17, their parents need to be present when they submit a marriage application, The Advocate reported.
House representatives pushed the measure as protection of children, arguing that “current law allowing child marriages leaves young girls vulnerable to human trafficking and cover-ups for rape”. State Representative Stephanie Hilferty (R-New Orleans), who supports the legislation, amended Senator Yvonne Colomb’s (D-Baton Rouge) bill to set the minimum age at 17, as opposed to the original age of 16.
Still, the amendment faced harsh and surprising criticisms in the House. Several conservative legislators rewrote the bill to allow for exceptions, in which minors could be married under certain conditions.
Representative Nancy Landry (R-Lafayette) shared that they do not want children born out of wedlock and that “if [the parents are] both 16 or 15 and having a baby why wouldn’t we want them to get married?”
Louisiana, one of the many southern states that has adopted a fetal heartbeat bill, essentially prohibits a woman’s choice in childbearing. Meanwhile, state legislators, with the backing of the influential Louisiana Family Forum, approve of minors as young as 15 getting married.
As noted by state Rep. Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge), some of the same conservative lawmakers also oppose efforts to provide comprehensive sex education to Louisiana students.
“That’s not right in our state. We need to protect our children,” she said.