Republicans in Tennessee’s House reversed last week’s decision that effectively killed a bill to prevent child marriages in the state.
On Wednesday, the bill that called for Tennessee to outlaw marriages where one of the parties is younger than 18 was sent to summer study session, where bills are usually reviewed but do not often come back for a vote.
House Majority Leader Glen Casada, a Republican from Franklin, Tenn., who sits on the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, made the motion Wednesday citing an email he received from former state Sen. David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee.
Fowler argued that passing state Rep. Darren Jernigan’s bill could interfere with a lawsuit he is mounting to counter the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to legalize gay marriage in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges.
But on Thursday, Casada said the bill, sponsored by Jernigan, a Democrat from Old Hickory, Tenn., would be brought back.
After media reports Thursday outlining a loophole in Tennessee law that gives judges discretion to grant marriage licenses with no minimum age limit, Casada said he conferred with Rep. Mike Carter, the subcommittee chair, and was “shocked.”
“I have sat down with Carter, and I was more than shocked when I found out that there are judges in the state of Tennessee that allow for children to be married,” Casada said. “So, with that fact given, we are going to revisit these limits on what a judge in Tennessee can do on marrying children in our state.”
The measure will be brought back for reconsideration Tuesday at the next meeting of the subcommittee. He said members will make a motion to reconsider, and the next week, it will be brought back before the committee.
“Judges can rule that a 12-year-old can marry someone who is over 18. I just didn’t think that would exist,” Casada said. “That’s when the legislature has to act.”