Marrying young | Arkansas Blog

Marrying young

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We told you a more than a month ago about sloppy drafting of the 2007 law intending to set the minimum age for marriage at 18, except in the case of pregnancy, when a younger woman can marry with parental consent.

The Code Revision Commission did an emergency fix in July by cleaning up sloppy wording in the new law to make the new statute say what the legislature intended. But Sen. Dave Bisbee has decided to raise hell about it. He claims this is all about  the sanctity of legislative language, however sloppy. It should be enshrined, however unintended the consequence,  he argues. We think he's being disingenuous. We think he's really in this scrap because there are some nuts in his part of the country who want to be able to let kids marry young. One of them got hot when a clerk denied a wedding license to a 17-year-old and complained to Bisbee.

It would appear, however, that Bisbee might force the issue. Now several legislators are calling for a special session to correct the problem. Seems like a monumental waste of time and money, though it might have its moments. There'd be a certain fascination in seeing fundies troop out in defense of 15-year-old brides.  My amateur legal opinion: the law now in the book reflects what the legislature intended and it will guide county clerks. The legislature shouldn't sue on some warped point of principle to make the statute say what wasn't intended. And who's going to sue to insist the legislature gave the right to pedophiles to marry children, as some normally sane legislators have suggested could happen? This statute, even as originally written, didn't  override the sexual assault statute. Some judges, presented with underage girls  for parental-consent marriages have long been known to not just deny the request for a marriage license but turn around and notify the prosecutor.

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