With just two days left in session, lawmakers are still negotiating setting a minimum age for marriage in Louisiana.
The debate started earlier this session with a bill from Senator Yvonne Colomb (D-Baton Rouge) that would have banned anyone under the age of 18 from getting married. But that plan quickly hit roadblocks.
Senators eventually settled on 16 as the minimum age, and added language to prevent anyone under 18 from marrying someone more than 4 years older—a relationship that could amount to a felony sex crime.
Over in the House, Representative Stephanie Hilferty (R-Metairie) supported the move.
“This to make sure we don’t have people covering up acts of rape as a marriage,” she told members on the House floor Sunday.
But the House backed a proposal from Representative Beryl Amedee (R-Houma) that essentially gutted the bill, eliminating both the age requirement and age gap provision. It would still require that anyone under 16 get approval from a judge—which is current law—but with one addition.
“It would require that a minor who would want to get married would have to go before a judge and the judge would have a lengthy list of questions to ask," explained Representative Amedee.
Amedee says the additional questions would be enough to prevent abusive marriages and still leave room for a young couple to get married in the event of a pregnancy.
But on Tuesday, the Senate rejected the changes, leaving three lawmakers from each chamber to hash out a compromise.
Louisiana Partnership For Children and Families Executive Director Susan East Nelson says whatever agreement is reached should include a minimum age. Without it, Louisiana remains an outlier.
“We are the only southern state in our region that doesn’t have one. Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida all have a minimum age for marriage."
Time is running out for lawmakers to reach a deal. Session must end Thursday evening.