FACT CHECK: Are Tennessee Republicans Pushing A Bill That Would Allow Child Marriage?

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims Tennessee Republican lawmakers are advancing a bill that would allow child marriage in the state.

Verdict: Misleading

While the original bill lacked an age requirement, an amendment was later added to clarify the new marriage designation would only be available to adults. The bill was never intended to allow child marriage, according to its sponsors.

Fact Check: 

Republican Tennessee State Rep. Tom Leatherwood recently introduced a bill that would recognize common-law marriages in the state, according to the Associated Press. The new designation, however, would only be available for heterosexual couples, leading some to characterize the bill as “anti-LGBTQ,” the outlet reported.

An image shared on Facebook claims the bill also has another objective. “Tennessee Republicans are advancing a ‘marry little kids’ bill that will allow them to marry children of any age,” reads the image’s text. “Why is the Republican Party trying to legalize pedophilia?”

This claim is misleading. While the bill did not have an age requirement when it was first introduced in March, an amendment was added April 6 to clarify the common-law marriage designation would only be available to heterosexual couples who have reached the “age of majority,” according to The Tennessean. The age of the majority in Tennessee is 18, the outlet reported. (RELATED: Did Lionel Messi Say He Would Not Play A Soccer Match Against Israel?)

Leatherwood maintains the bill was never intended to open the door to child marriage. “Altering or addressing age in marriage was never the intent of this bill,” Leatherwood told The Tennessean. “I think it’s a better bill by putting that in there.”

Despite the addition of the amendment, numerous social media posts continue to characterize the proposed legislation as means to legalize child marriage. Leatherwood has since moved the bill to “summer study,” effectively ending its chances of being passed in the current legislative session, according to WKRN.com.

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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