Tennessee Republicans blocked a ban on child marriages to avoid recognising same-sex unions
Republicans in Tennessee have blocked a proposed ban on child marriages on the off-chance that it could harm a future legal argument against same-sex unions.
The bill would outlaw all marriage where one of the prospective spouses is under 18.
It has received support from national nonprofit Unchained at Last, which says it has found at least three marriages in the state involving children as young as 10.
The state has denied this figure.
Despite seeming like a pretty uncontroversial bill, Republican lawmakers have moved to kill its chances of passing through the House in this legislative session.
The Majority Leader of the House, Glen Casada, created a motion to send the proposal to summer study in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, where bills usually go to die.
In his reasoning for the move, Casada cited an email he had received from David Fowler, a former state senator who is president of the conservative Christian group the Family Action Council of Tennessee.
Fowler told Casada that passing the bill could affect a lawsuit he is preparing against the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling which legalised same-sex marriage.
He suggested that the equal marriage ruling made all existing Tennessean marriage licenses null and void, because it changed the legal definition of marriage.
Because of this, Fowler encouraged Casada not to outlaw child marriages, because this would require the state to acknowledge the legality of same-sex marriages.
Democrat Darren Jernigan, who proposed banning child marriages, said: “Basically, what has happened is the Family Action Council wants to continue to let 13-year-olds get married in the state at the sake of their court case against same-sex couples.
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“It’s disgraceful. I’m embarrassed for the State of Tennessee, and I can only pray that we bring this back next year and not let them get in the way.”
The Family Action Council campaigned successfully last year for a law which targeted the legality of same-sex marriage.
On the Tennessee branch’s site, it says that “we strongly support one-man, one-woman marriage and believe that same-sex marriage is out of line with a biblical viewpoint.
“Since the June 2015 Supreme Court Obergefell decision that redefined marriage to include same-sex marriage, FACT has been legally challenging that ruling.”
It continues: “Support for homosexual marriage, or same-sex ‘marriage,’ reflects not only a misunderstanding of what marriage is, but also a lack of appreciation for the impact the redefinition of marriage will have on society”.