More often than not this time of year, The Record rails against silly or superfluous laws being teed-up by our lawmakers. This year we’ve had the added boost of potentially new laws concocted by the Constitutional Revision Commission.
To recap quickly, this is a body of 37 residents who take public input in order to deliver common sense, nonpartisan ideas to be added as constitutional amendments to Florida’s Constitution.
First, our Constitution, like the U.S. Constitution, needn’t be fooled with at whim. That’s why we have a legislature.
But there’s one proposed law that may be ending some statutory silliness rather than beginning some.
House Bill 335 and Senate Bill 140 both are aimed at repealing several odd and outdated exemptions to the state’s child marriage law exemptions.
Most of us believe that in civilized societies, teens should be at least at the age of consent at 18.
But most of us would be mistaken.
In Florida teens can be married as early as 16 with parental or guardian consent. If a minor’s parents are deceased, he or she can be married without consent. Our sister paper, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that “to show how backward the law is,” a minor can be married without parental consent if he or she “was previously married.”
In addition, minors can be married without the parents’ OK if both a swear they are parents of a child or expecting to be — with a judge’s consent.
A female younger than 18 and a male over 18 can be legally wed in the event of a pregnancy. In fact, a county judge can issue the marriage license if the female is under 16.
The Herald-Tribune points out correctly that the laws are archaic, overly broad and leave too much room for abuse as in the case of predatory or non-consensual sex.
State records show that 1,828 marriage licenses were issued in the past five years in which one applicant was a minor. Most were given to couples in which one party was 16 to 17 and the other 18 to 24 — though 135 involved one applicant between 16 to 17 and the other between 25 and 29.
The Herald-Tribune wrote, “in other words, this is not all about kids marrying kids; it’s often about adults marrying children or teens.
This isn’t about meddling in private family affairs. Statistics point to elevated levels of physical, emotional and economic problems with child brides, often ending in the girl being left to care for the children alone.
Existing laws simply leave too many loopholes with which our kids can be snared. The new law won’t hinder young love. It will help ensure they reach the age of consent before tying a legal knot, which could shackle them to lives they never dreamed possible in their young minds’ eyes.