Louisiana state House lawmakers rejected a bill on Sunday that would have set a minimum age to marry in the state.
Introduced in the state senate by Sen. Yvonne Dorsey Colomb, a Democrat from Baton Rouge, the bill would have stopped anyone under the age of 16 to get married in the state of Louisiana. It would also bar anyone who is 16 or 17-years-old from marrying someone who is more than four years older than them.
The bill aimed to strengthen marriage requirements. Currently, under current Louisiana law, minors who want to marry require parental consent. A judge’s approval is needed for anyone under the age of 16.
Some conservatives in the state opposed the bill based on the belief that people who marry young stay in strong relationships for years, the Associated Press reports. Rep. Nancy Landry, a Republican from Lafayette, called 16-year-olds “very mature,” and extolled the virtues of marriage, especially if a teen couple is expecting a child.
“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?” she said, according to the AP. “Just as a public policy of the state we want children born into wedlock, if possible.”
But proponents for the bill said a minimum marriage age would protect teenagers from marrying sexual predators. Republican Rep. Stephanie Hilferty called the notion of a 15-year-old getting married “disturbing,” adding that a minimum age would help prevent people from “covering up acts of rape as a marriage.”
The House rewrote the bill and voted 66-28 for the new version, which maintains the same requirements for anyone under the age of 18 who wants to get married in Louisiana. Lawmakers were poised at one point to agree to set a minimum age at 17, but that language was later taken out and re-written following objections, the AP reports.
The rewritten version found support among lawmakers who backed the original move for a minimum marriage age, according to the AP. The amended bill has been sent back to the state Senate.