Fact Check: Are Tennessee Republicans Advancing a Bill That Would Allow Child Marriage?

Viral social media posts claim that Tennessee Republicans are advancing a bill that would eliminate a minimum age for marriage. 

The bill in question is Tennessee’s House Bill 233, sponsored by Rep. Tom Leatherwood, a Republican representing Tennessee’s 99th District. The bill has 19 co-sponsors, all Republicans. If passed, the bill would create a separate type of marriage contract intended only for heterosexual unions. Leatherwood said the purpose is to create a license for marriage that ministers with objections to gay marriage can sign without feeling like they’re supporting a marriage system that includes same sex marriages. 

Tennessee law currently dictates individuals must be 17 years old or older in order to get married, but in creating a different pathway for marriage, this requirement would not apply to HB 233. The bill initially did not include an age requirement—though the sponsor was asked to add one in early March after it was reviewed by the Children & Family Affairs Subcommittee—leading to widespread concern over the potential for child marriage, but an amendment filed on Wednesday would add an 18 year old age limit to HB 233.

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