NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A bill that would create a common-law marriage between “one man” and “one woman” is advancing in the Tennessee State Capitol. But the bill is the center of controversy as the original draft did away with age requirements for the new form of marriage in Tennessee.
Opponents argued that without an explicit age requirement, the bill would open the door for child marriages.
The bill (HB 233) has caused an uproar across the country and at the State Capitol.
“I had pastors and individuals come to me that have moral objections, contentious objections to performing the marriages,” said Rep. Tom Leatherwood (R-Arlington).
Critics of the bill say the creation of a new marriage system for heterosexual couples will invite litigation, be potentially dangerous for LGBTQ youth and divide communities.
“Marriage is between a man and a woman and this would create a marriage certificate reflecting that and so it will have a form that just reflects that,” Leatherwood said in committee.
But an amendment added to the bill after backlash added an age limit of 18 after previously not specifying one. Representative Leatherwood, the bill’s sponsor, claimed some people didn’t understand the intent.
“Some legitimate concerns, others were looking for indirect ways to work against the bill and that’s fine, that’s the political process,” Leatherwood said.
When asked if he condemns child marriages, Leatherwood said he does. “Yes, I am opposed to child marriages.”
The marriage proposal would be akin to a contract that doesn’t have to be filed with the state.
The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill while the House continues to debate.