A Code Revision Commission meeting is underway as I write to see if a solution can be found to an inadvertent error in legislation intended to clarify the age of consent for marriage in Arkansas. It's a doozy.
Under existing law, marriage was legal for all 18 and up, but also at age 16 for women and 17 for men -- with parental consent. The gender difference was of questionable constitutionality, clearly.
The 2007 legislation, which takes effect July 31, was intended to set the minimum for marriage at 18, but allow an exception for a pregnant woman younger than 18. But the legislation removed any mention of a required minimum age. Simply, the legislation as passed allowed county clerks to issue marriage licenses to two young children on consent from both parents. Arranged marriages of children are not unheard of in some cultures.
The attorney general opined last month that the law has the effect I've described and that clerks have little wiggle room in denying licenses to children with consenting parents.
UPDATE AND REVISED: The Code Revision Commission this afternoon made two changes in the law that a sponsor believes should fix the problem. I'd been alerted to this fix after my original post by Rep. Will Bond of Jacksonville, one of the sponsors. He said drafting errors added the word "not" to two sections intended to provide exceptions for those who are pregnant. The commission voted to delete those words. The meeting today was something of an emergency, because the code revision is at the printer and they wanted to get the change in the new supplements.
Bond said it's clear what the legislature intended. He said he had testified that his intent was to make marriage illegal except for those 18 and older, with an exception for pregnancy. The new legislation has no age floor for a pregnant woman, which is the same as in existing law.
A hat tip to the Fayetteville Trucker for the lead on this.