Louisiana lawmakers opt against setting minimum age for marriage

Lawmakers in Louisiana have decided against setting a minimum age to marry in the state.

The Louisiana House over the weekend declined to take up a Senate bill that would bar anyone under the age of 16 from being able to marry in the state, according to The Associated Press.

The Republican-led House instead voted overwhelmingly in support of a rewritten version of the bill that says parental consent must be given for residents under the age of 18 to marry.

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The House voted 66-28 in support of the rewritten legislation.

State Rep. Stephanie Hilferty (R) was in support of the Senate’s version of the bill, saying a minimum age is necessary to prevent people from "covering up acts of rape as a marriage."

Speaking against setting an age restriction for marriage in Louisiana, state Rep. Nancy Landry (R) said she didn’t like the way lawmakers made it sound like every teenager who is married is a sex trafficking victim.

"It's really disturbing to me, because a lot of 16-year-olds are very mature," Landry said.

"If they're both 16 years old, and they both consent to sexual relations, and they're about to have a baby, why wouldn't we want them to be married?" Landry said. "Just as a public policy of the state we want children born into wedlock, if possible."

Current law in Louisiana states minors who are 16 or 17 require parental consent to be married, while those under 16 need a judge’s approval. 

Last year, Delaware became the first state in the country to ban child marriage, followed by New York and Texas, setting the minimum age for marriage in any circumstance at 18.