October 21, 2020

New law to set 16 as minimum age to get married

Louisiana will have a minimum marriage age of 16 starting in August, under a bill signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The hard-fought measure by Sen. Yvonne Dorsey Colomb, a Baton Rouge Democrat, was passed in the final hour of the legislative session earlier this month. Edwards signed the legislation without fanfare.

The new law will prohibit anyone under age 16 from getting married, and will prohibit anyone 16 or 17 years old from marrying someone three years or more older. Anyone 16 or 17 years old will need permission from parents and a judge to marry.

Supporters say a minimum age can help protect teenagers from sexual predators. Opponents, largely conservative Republicans, argued they didn’t want to keep pregnant teenagers from marrying.

Currently no minimum age exists in Louisiana, but a judge must sign off on a marriage involving a child under the age of 16. Critics have long said the current system effectively allows an adult to impregnate a child, then quickly get married to avoid criminal penalty.