Stating that “marriage is an adult responsibility,” Florida Rep. Cynthia Stafford has proposed a new bill that prohibits youths under the age of 16 from getting married in the state.
“We don’t want them to vote, we don’t want them to drink alcohol, they can’t drive a car, and we allow them to marry under 16?” said Stafford.
Florida’s current law allows minors to get married if they are expecting or already have a baby, and if they have obtained parental permission and court approval.
The law also permits a minor to get married if both his/her parents are deceased, or if he/she has previously been married.
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Stafford, a Democrat, noted that in 2012, a 13-year-old boy was married in Florida.
“I have a hard time wrapping my head around that,” Stafford said. “Here we have a 13-year-old still going through puberty, who now is a husband because, apparently, he made a baby.”
“I just don’t think that should be the policy of this state,” she continued.
Florida records indicate that in 2013, 110 marriages were conducted for children ages 16 and under. In 2012, that number was even higher: 150 such marriages were recorded.
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House Bill 1279 was passed unanimously by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee on Tuesday.
Stafford said that she was motivated by a 1972 case in Tallahassee in which a 10-year-old girl was raped, and was pregnant and married by age 11. The young girl’s mother gave consent for her daughter to marry the 20-year-old who raped her.
If the bill becomes a law, Florida will join Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin in banning marriage for youths under age 16.
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