BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana lawmakers agreed Thursday to set 16 as the minimum age for someone to marry in the state, reviving and quickly passing the measure in the final hour of the legislative session.
The House had earlier rejected setting a marriage age, but reversed course after behind-the-scenes negotiations to broker a deal.
The final measure will prohibit anyone under the age of 16 from getting married, and will prohibit anyone 16 or 17 years old from marrying someone who is three years or more older. Anyone who is 16 or 17 years old and wants to marry will need parental permission, along with agreement from a judge.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, didn’t commit to signing the measure into law, saying he hadn’t been able to read the final version of the compromise language. But he added that supporting it was likely: “My best guess is I will.”
Supporters said a minimum age will help protect teenagers from sexual predators, citing marriages of teenagers to people decades older.
During a previous debate on the measure, Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, a New Orleans Republican, said a minimum age was “desperately needed” to keep people from “covering up acts of rape as a marriage.”
Opponents of a minimum age, largely conservative Republicans, touted the benefits of marriage and said they don’t want to prohibit pregnant teenagers from marrying.
Rep. Valarie Hodges, a Denham Springs Republican, said lawmakers shouldn’t deny a pregnant teenager “the benefit of marriage as protection for her and her baby.”