Tallahassee, Fla. (CBS TAMPA) — A Florida lawmaker has introduced legislation to scrap a law allowing youths 15 or younger to get married if they are expecting or already have a child, with the proposal citing that “marriage is an adult responsibility.”
Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami, is looking to abolish current Florida marriage laws that allow minors under the age of 16 to get married with parental permission and court approval if the couple are expecting or already have a child, the Sun Sentinel reports. Current Florida law also allows minors to marry if both parents are dead or if the minor was previously married.
But according to Stafford, nuptials under the age of 16 are inappropriate.
“Marriage is an adult responsibility,” Stafford told the Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee during a vote on Tuesday. “We don’t want them to vote, we don’t want them to drink alcohol, they can’t drive a car, and we allow them to marry under 16?”
“You may say, ‘This does not happen nowadays,’ but in 2012 we had a 13-year-old groom in the state of Florida,” Stafford told the committee, which passed her (HB 1279) proposal unanimously and without debate.
The 13-year-old referenced by Stafford was the youngest Floridian to marry in the past two years, according to the state’s Bureau of Vital Statistics, although the bride’s age was not available, the Sun Sentinel reports.
“I have a hard time wrapping my head around that,” Stafford, an attorney, said after the hearing. “Here we have a 13-year-old still going through puberty, who now is a husband because, apparently, he made a baby. I just don’t think that should be the policy of this state.”
According to U.S. Marriage laws, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, and Oklahoma allow pregnant teens or teens who have already had a child to get married without parental consent. However, in Florida, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, the young couple must have authorization from a court.
If passed into law, Florida would join 10 other states that currently bar marriage under the age of 16 in all circumstances: Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin.
Stafford told the Sun Sentinel she was motivated by the 1972 Pinellas County case in which a girl was raped at 10 years old, pregnant and married by age 11.
Sixteen and 17-year-olds would still be allowed to marry with parental consent and regardless of pregnancy, said Stafford.
The state’s debate on marriage comes as eight gay couples and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued the state of Florida, arguing that it is discriminating against the couples by not recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states where the nuptials are legal.
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