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Second Republican state resists banning child marriage in one week

Republican Sens. Dan Seum, of Louisville, left, and Dick Roeding of Lakeside Park confer in the Senate chamber.

Republicans in Kentucky and Tennessee are conflicted on whether marrying kids is acceptable.

This week in Trump’s America, Republicans in not one but two states put up a fight over passing what should be a completely uncontroversial policy: banning child marriage.

The fireworks began in Kentucky, where current law allows an adult to marry a girl of any age if she is pregnant.

A bill in the Kentucky Senate — whose sponsor was Republican — would restrict minors who can’t give consent from being married.

Lawmakers heard emotional testimony from witnesses, including a 16-year-old girl who was impregnated, forced into marriage, and abused by a man in his thirties. But the bill stalled in committee thanks to lobbying from the Family Foundation of Kentucky, a right-wing group that claimed it should be the parents’ choice.

Today, a revised version of the bill finally passed the Senate, but even then a few Republicans voted against it. One dissenter, Republican Rep. Dan Seum, complained, “I as a parent couldn’t let my pregnant 16-year-old daughter marry the guy that loves her, give the baby a name?”

An even crazier situation is now unfolding in Tennessee, where a loophole in state law lets judges approve marriages with no minimum age, and where child welfare advocates have found marriages of children as young as ten.

Republican lawmakers in the Tennessee House of Representatives have referred a Democratic bill setting a minimum age on marriage to “summer study” in subcommittee, effectively killing debate on it.

The reason? According to the Tennessean, State House Majority Leader Glen Casada was told to kill the bill by former State Sen. David Fowler, who is mounting a bizarre lawsuit to overturn gay marriage under the argument that Tennessee marriage licenses do not exist.

Since Fowler’s legal case rests on the idea there is no such thing as a Tennessee marriage license, anti-gay state lawmakers decided they did not want to hurt his case by passing a law that regulates marriage licenses.

The GOP’s refusal to ban child marriage could have real consequences. Between 2000 and 2015, 200,000 children were married off in the United States, usually young girls to older men.

Even on the starkest of moral issues, Republicans fail a basic test of decency. We need lawmakers who can commit to protecting children.