A GOP-backed bill in Tennessee would eliminate any age requirements for marriage, a move that critics are calling hypocritical amid baseless Republican accusations that the LGBTQ+ community is attempting "groom" and "sexualize" school children.
H.B. 233 gives Tennesseans "an alternative form of marriage" between individuals who have a "conscientious objection to the current pathway," according to state Rep. Tom Leatherwood, the bill's Republican sponsor.
As WKRN reported, the GOP bill, first introduced in January, establishes a common-law marriage between "one man" and "one woman" but omits any age requirements for the union, an omission that Democrats have blasted.
"I don't think any normal person thinks we shouldn't have an age requirement for marriage," said Democratic state Rep. Mike Stewart. "It should not be there as it's basically a get out of jail free card for people who are basically committing statutory rape," Stewart. I mean it's completely ridiculous, so that's another reason why this terrible bill should be eliminated."
The measure is a significant step back from a Tennessee law passed in 2018 that prohibited minors under the age of seventeen from getting married.
According to Unchained at Last, Tennessee ranks the 13th highest state in child marriages per capita. Nearly 10,000 children were granted marriage licenses in the state between 2000 and 2018.