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Full Senate To Debate Setting Minimum Age To Marry In Louisiana

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A Louisiana Senate committee advanced a bill Tuesday that would set a minimum age limit for marriage in the state. But which age remains unclear. 

There’s currently no minimum age for marriage in Louisiana, but anyone under 18 has to have parental approval. For those under 16 wanting to marry, that requires the consent of a judge.

Susan East Nelson is the executive director of Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families. She says the goal of the bill is to prevent marriages between a juvenile and someone much older.

“Unfortunately there are judges that are still doing this in Louisiana, and they’re in really small rural towns where everybody knows everybody and everybody’s okay with it,” she told members of a Senate Judiciary committee.

Advocates say setting a minimum marriage age helps prevent young people being married against their will.

As it stands now, Senator Yvonne Colomb’s (D-Baton Rouge) bill would prevent anyone under the age of 18 from legally marrying in Louisiana.

While Senator Jay Luneau (D-Alexandria) agrees a minimum age should be set, he says 18 is too restrictive.

“If two 17-year-olds have been dating all through high school and there’s a pregnancy and they don’t want to have the child out of wedlock, we’re preventing them from doing that,” he said.

The bill advanced to the Senate floor, with the understanding that some changes would be made, like an amendment that would specifically outlaw the marriage of two people whose relationship outside of a marriage could amount to felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile.

“If any kind of consummation of the marriage would otherwise be a crime had it not been within the marriage, then that is where we need to regulate,” suggested Morgan Lamandre, legal director of Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response.

Support for the bill on the floor remains unclear. Last year, a similar bill made it out of the same committee, but was never discussed after that.