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Tennessee bill aims to end underage marriage by raising age from 16 to 18

NASHVILLE, Tenn.– A bill proposed by lawmakers in the state will bring an end to child marriage by raising the age for legal marriage from 16 to 18-years-old.

Currently, someone aged 16 or 17 can receive a marriage license in the state of Tennessee so long as their parents join in the marriage license application. Additionally, judges or county mayors can also approve marriages of people under the age of 16.

Senator Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) said, “When a local official signs over and allows a 10,12,14,15-year-old girl to marry a 30 year-old man, it gets very close to aiding and abetting a crime and under the current way the code is written there is no way to stop that.”

Under the new bill, that age would be raised to 18 and make it unlawful for any county mayor or deputy clerk to issue a marriage license to parties under 18. SB1790 and HB1785 are sponsored by Yarbro and Rep. Darren Jernigan (D-Old Hickory).

In a statement release from the Democratic Caucus on Monday, they note Tennessee is tied for the sixth-highest rate of child marriage according to the Pew Research Center.

According to data collected by Pew Research from 2010-2014, 5.5 per 1,000 Tennesseans between the ages of 15 and 17 were married during that time period. The rate tied Tennessee for sixth with California. Only West Virginia, Texas, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Arkansas had higher rates.

A group called Unchained At Last has done an exhaustive study of marriage and said 85 percent of child marriages in Tennessee are an adult man marrying an underage female.

The group says people who marry as teens are more likely to drop out of school, live in poverty and be physically abused in addition to being too young to get a restraining order or even hire a divorce attorney.

Since 2001, Unchained At Last said they found three instances where 10-year-old children in Tennessee were allowed to get married, but they did not provide the names or counties.

“I can’t fathom that under the age of 18, those brains are developed and formed to make those kinds of decisions that last for the rest of your life,” Rep. Darren Jernigan said.

See the bill below or CLICK HERE.


SB1790 by Anonymous GF8PPILW5 on Scribd

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