Republican lawmaker’s ‘ugly’ anti-LGBT+ bill paves the way for child marriage in Tennessee

Republican lawmaker's 'ugly' anti-LGBT+ bill paves the way for child marriage in Tennessee

A Republican bill to make common law marriage legal in Tennessee, United States, could allow for cases of child marriage to occur, opponents say.

The bill, which was sponsored by state representative Tom Leatherwood along with 23 other Republicans, would see common law marriage – a legally recognise marriage between people who have not obtained a marriage license or had a ceremony – become legal in the state.

However, opponents of the Tennessee bill claim it will not only “undermine marriage equality”, but also – due to a lack of age requirements – create a loophole for legalised child marriage.

Action News 5 reported that Leatherwood said: “I’ve seen a change in the tide, and if there’s any hostility, it’s against those people who do believe marriage comes from God, not from government and do believe it’s between a man and a woman.”

Representative Torrey Harris said to Leatherwood on the bill: “We have no age limit in this legislation and that’s very much a problem.

“What in your legislation would stop a 16-year-old from going down with someone else to the courthouse and getting this done, since there’s no age restriction within your law?”

Leatherwood replied that it would be “construed that minors would not be able to enter into this”.

State senator Raumesh Akbari told Action News 5: “It’s ugly enough Republicans are advancing an unconstitutional bill to undermine marriage equality, but the fact that this bill reopens the debate on child marriage is outrageous.

“Kids need time to grow and mature. Kids need to be kids, not brides and mothers.”

The proposed legislation comes as several anti-LGBT+ bills have appeared throughout the US, including Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which was signed into law on 28 March.

Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has since announced that she wants to file a federal “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans the discussion of LGBT+ topics in classrooms, across the country.

“We can do legislation to protect our children,” she said on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show InfoWars.

“There should be no federal funding to any school anywhere that is indoctrinating children, that is teaching them that they can change their gender, that is teaching them anything sick and disgusting like this. We should stop all federal funding.

“I will meet with my team right after this interview and we will work on it, Alex, because I will do anything I can to protect kids.”

Now that it has been signed, Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill will come into effect on 1 July 2022.