BOISE – The Idaho House has quashed a bill that would have prohibited children under 16 from getting married.
The child marriage bill, as it has been called, was defeated Thursday by a 28-39 margin, with all but one of the local delegation voting against the legislation.
Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene, who voted for the bill, said testimony in the Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee on the failings of the current law were among reasons the bill passed by a large margin in committee before being defeated on the House floor.
The bipartisan bill, meant to align the state’s statutory rape laws with its marriage laws, has been replicated in recent years in legislatures across the U.S.
Utah representatives passed their version of the bill by a 55-6 margin last week — one day after Idaho efforts failed — making it illegal to marry under 16.
Idaho’s current law provides a loophole that can be used by people who take advantage of children, Amador said.
“There are certain individuals who utilize the underage marriage process basically to traffic in children,” Amador said.
Idaho allows children under 16 to marry as long as they have a judge’s and parental consent. The bill would have set the minimum marriage age at 16 and required 16- and 17-year-olds to have both parental and the court’s permission to marry. That would have aligned the legislation with Idaho’s statutory rape laws.
Opponents to the bill argued it required too much government and judicial oversight, said Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, one of the bill’s sponsors.
In reality, Wintrow said, the bill, co-sponsored by Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, among others, was a compromise that would still protect children from exploitation. In most states the legal age to marry is 18.
“I’m at a loss quite frankly,” Wintrow told The Press on Monday. “This law would have brought child protection into it.”
Both District 7 Representatives Priscilla Giddings (R) and Paul E. Shepherd (R) voted against the bill. District 7 encompasses Shoshone, Clearwater and Idaho Counties.
Amador said he voted his conscience and what he thought was reasonable.
“I don’t think it’s a good thing for us as a society to have children getting married at 13, and 14, and 15,” he said.