UnNews:Preschollers Wed in Arkansas
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19 August 2007
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas -- Preschoolers Mary Frances Olander and Billy Fee are leaving on their honeymoon. The two were married within a month after an Arkansas law was passed that allows Arkansans of any age -- even infants -- to marry if their parents agree.
The legislation was intended to establish 18 as the minimum age to marry but also allow pregnant teenagers to marry with parental consent, bill sponsor Rep. Will Bond said. An extraneous "not" in the bill, however, allows anyone who is not pregnant to marry at any age if the parents allow it.
"It's clearly not the intent to allow 10-year-olds or 11-year-olds to get married," Bond said. "The legislation was screwed up, but now that it has happened, I guess we need to get our asses in gear to fix this loophole."
The bill reads: "In order for a person who is younger than eighteen (18) years of age and who is not pregnant to obtain a marriage license, the person must provide the county clerk with evidence of parental consent to the marriage."
A code revision commission -- which fixes typographical and technical errors in laws -- had tried to correct the mistake, but a group of legislators said the commission went beyond its powers.
"You're either pregnant or you're not pregnant," Sen. Dave Bisbee said. "Rarely will that be a typographical error, it would more-likely be an error in birth control apparatus, such as a torn condom, or a mis-calculation using the Rhythm Method."
The Arkansas Legislative Council asked the independent commission to reverse its correction. Several lawmakers said a special session may be necessary, but would be difficult to arrange due to vacations, and whatnot.
"We need a special session to fix this," Sen. Sue Madison said. "I am concerned about pedophiles coming to Arkansas to find parents who are willing to sign a very young child's consent. I know that there are a lot of sick puppies out there who would love to marry a small child, heck, I already know people who would sell their children! Furthermore, Arkansas will continue be the laughing stock of the country if we continue to allow children to get married. With this said, Arkansas has a stereotype image to overcome, and this does nothing to help change that."
Before the new law took effect July 31, girls could get married with parental consent at 16 and boys at 17.
The Legislature formally adjourned its session in May and is not scheduled to meet again until January 2009, unless Gov. Mike Beebe calls a special session.