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 at the center of controversy as the original draft did away with age requirements for the new form of marriage in Tennessee.
Opponents of the bill say, without an explicit age requirement, it would open the doors 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 it’s aimed at creating a new marriage system for heterosexual couples.
“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 having one. Leatherwood, the bill’s sponsor, says 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.”
Democrats on the committee say the bill is still dangerous.
“Our children’s safety doesn’t matter, our elders who can be taken advantage of by just the signature on a piece of paper that all their property can be taken away from them, all because, now, under common law in the state of Tennessee, it would look like they gave away their rights,” said Rep. Torrey Harris (D-Memphis).
When asked if he condemns child marriages, Leatherwood said he does. “Yes, I am opposed to child marriages,” he said.
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.