Capitol Views: Marriage age heads to negotiation

    The Senate this morning rejected House amendments to legislation that would make it illegal for minors to get married. Senate Bill 172, by Local and Municipal Affairs Chairwoman Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, would set the state’s minimum marriage age to 16 and would require minors ages 16 and 17 to receive parental and judicial permission to obtain a marriage license.

    During debate in the lower chamber, House members passed amendments removing the minimum age requirement, allowing minors under the age of 16 to marry with parental and judicial permission. “I support it actually, and I certainly want to keep rapists from marrying their victims or sex traffickers from marrying victims to avoid sex trafficking laws,” Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette said. “We’re only asking for a reasonable exception.”

    Some House Republicans, including Landry, opposed setting a minimum marriage age, in part to allow expectant parents under the age of 16 to get married with a judge’s permission. “I’m not saying that all 16-year-olds are mature,” Landry said, “but in some situations, 16- and 17-year-olds are mature enough to get married and raise their family within the framework that we have established.”

    Colomb’s bill would also prohibit 16 and 17-year-olds from marrying anyone more than four years older. The House added amendments that would prevent minors from marrying anyone more than two years older.

    The author moved to reject the House’s amendments, and the Senate voted with Colomb 28 to 0. “Basically what the House amendment did was make the bill inconsequential,” said Susan East Nelson, executive director of the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families. “They stripped everything off that we wanted.”

    Colomb’s bill will move to conference committee, where three senators and three representatives will forge a compromise measure that can pass both houses.

    Nelson said she expects the bill to include the minimum marriage age of 16 and either a three- or four-year age gap between minors and their potential spouses. “We’re fine as long as there is a gap that’s not more than four years and that the minimum age is set,” Nelson said.

    Jeremy Alford will publish Capitol Views each afternoon on Daily Report PM through the end of the legislative session. The report is also available to subscribers at    

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