Stop TN House Bill 233
Stop TN House Bill 233
Why this petition matters
Tennessee bill would eliminate age requirements for marriages, A bill proposal making its way through Tennessee legislature that would establish a common-law marriage between “one man” and “one woman," according to WKRN. Opponents of the bill say it would eliminate an age requirement, opening the door for a coverup of child sex abuse.
HOUSE BILL 233 By Leatherwood
AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 8; Title 10; Title 16; Title 36; Title 39; Title 67 and Title 68, relative to marriage.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE: SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 36, Chapter 3, Part 1, is amended by
deleting §§ 36-3-103 – 36-3-112.
SECTION 2. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 36, Chapter 3, Part 3, is amended by
deleting §§ 36-3-301 – 36-3-308.
SECTION 3. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 8-6-109(b), is amended by adding
the following language as a new subdivision:
( ) To defend any action against a local official or any political subdivision of the
state for adherence to the duties, responsibilities, or limitations imposed on such official or political subdivision pursuant to the issuance or failure to issue a marriage license pursuant to § 36-3-104(a)(1), as it existed prior to the effective date of this act, and alleged to be in violation of either the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of Tennessee. In the event that the attorney general and reporter determines that the best interest of the state, or that of the local official or political subdivision, requires private counsel, the local official or chief legal officer of the political subdivision shall be notified and the local official or political subdivision shall have the right to file for reimbursement of defense costs, subject to the limits of § 29-20-113, in accordance with chapter 42 of this title in the same manner as state employees. SECTION 4. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 16-10-101, is amended by adding
the language "; provided, however, in cases involving the definition of common law marriage,
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where the people of Tennessee have spoken on the definition of marriage by referendum interpreting the Constitution of Tennessee, the circuit court's jurisdiction shall be limited to those principles of common law consistent with the import of those votes by the people" following the language "upon another tribunal".
SECTION 5. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 16-11-102, is amended by deleting subsection (a) and substituting instead the following:
(a) The chancery court has concurrent jurisdiction, with the circuit court, of all civil causes of action, triable in the circuit court, except for unliquidated damages for injuries to person or character, and except for unliquidated damages for injuries to property not resulting from a breach of oral or written contract and except for cases involving the definition of marriage at common law, in which case the court's jurisdiction shall be limited to the principles of common law; and no demurrer for want of jurisdiction of the cause of action shall be sustained in the chancery court, except in the cases excepted.
SECTION 6. If any provision of this act or its application to any person or circumstance
is held invalid, then the invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of the act that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to that end, the provisions of this act are severable.
SECTION 7. This act takes effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it.
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The bill’s sponsor, Tom Leatherwood (R-Arlington) says the law being considered would add a new marriage option for Tennesseans, according to WKRN.
“So, all this bill does is give an alternative form of marriage for those pastors and other individuals who have a conscientious objection to the current pathway to marriage in our law," says Leatherwood.
Missing from the bill are age requirements, opening the door for possible child marriages. Something the bill sponsor acknowledged during a Children and Family Affairs subcommittee.
“There is not an explicit age limit,” Leatherwood said.
Representative Mike Stewart (D-Nashville), who sits on the subcommittee the bill passed out of, said he doesn’t understand the motivation, according to WKRN.
“I don’t think any normal person thinks we shouldn’t have an age requirement for marriage," says Stewart.
He added it could open up the possibility to cover up child sex abuse.
“It should not be there as it’s basically a get out of jail free card for people who are basically committing statutory rape — I mean it’s completely ridiculous, so that’s another reason why this terrible bill should be eliminated,” Steward says.
The Sexual Assault Center of Middle Tennessee released the following statement to WKRN:
“The Sexual Assault Center does not believe the age of consent for marriage should be any younger than it already is. It makes children more vulnerable to coercion and manipulation from predators, sexual and other.”
According to UNICEF, between 2000 and 2018, 300,000 girls and boys were married before 18 in the US.
Under current Tennessee law, you can get married as young as 17 with parental consent.