Child marriage bill was flawed, lawmaker says

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Addis

A failed House bill aimed at restricting marriages among minors in Idaho was flawed and likely would have passed with the deletion of a single clause in the legislation, said Rep. Jim Addis, R-Coeur d’Alene.

House Bill 98 proposed setting the minimum age to marry at 16. Under the proposed law, for a 16- or 17-year-old to get married, consent of the child, parents and the court would be required. Current law does not require court approval for marrying minors who are 16 or 17.

In a House vote Feb. 28, the bipartisan legislation failed by a 28-39 margin. Addis voted with the majority.

“I do agree with the bill’s statement of purpose — especially in preventing coerced marriages and the trafficking of children,” Addis said, but added: “The language of the proposed bill and the noble intent of the proposed bill do not match.”

The first-term lawmaker took issue with a section in the bill that would have made certain marriages “illegal in some unintended circumstances.”

Specifically, the lawmaker objected to a clause that would prohibit a minor (ages 16 or 17) from marrying a person more than three years older even if the parents and the minors and a judge agreed to the marriage.

“I would have supported the bill without the three-year provision,” he said, adding he has worked with the bill’s sponsor to delete the disputed section.

“If the bill were rewritten to eliminate these concerns I would be very receptive to voting in favor,” he said. “It’s my understanding that other (lawmakers) would, too.”

After making clear to constituents his reasons for voting against House Bill 98, Addis said many “ardent supporters” of the legislation “agree with me on these noted shortcomings and are collaborating on this bill’s rewrite.”

Addis said he sent emails to 12 citizens and received seven responses that were generally understanding of his opposition to the legislation.

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