They had intended was to establish 18 as the minimum age to marry but also to add a provision that would allow pregnant teenagers to marry with their parents permission stated bill sponser Rep Will Bond. 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."
"It's clearly no the intent to allow 10 year-olds or 11 year-olds to marry. The legislation was screwed up," stated Bond.
An extraneous "not" in the bill allows anyone who isn't pregnant, to marry at any age. A code revision commission, which fixes typographical or technical errors in the law had tried to fix it but a group of legislators said that it had gone beyond its power. They feel that you either are or aren't pregnant and that isn't a typographical error.
"I am concerned about pedophiles coming to Arkansas to find parents who are willing to sign a very young child's consent," stated Sue Madison.
The Arkansas Legislative Council has asked an independent commision to reverse it's correction and several lawmakers have stated that it may be necessary to have a special session. Another issue is that the Legislature formally adjourned its session and isn't schedualed to meet again until January 2009, unless Gov Mike Beebe calls for a special session.
Before the new law took effect July 31, girls could get married with parental consent and boys at 17. Now, thanks to an overlooked "not," kids in Arkansas can marry before they know how to tie their sneakers.
Update: posted Sept 1
Gov Mike Beebe has stated that he is not inclined to call a special legislative session to correct the error that exists in a new law that would allow even toddlers to marry with parental permission. He added that he would do so if legislative leaders pushed for one but he would rather avoid the expense of it.
Beebe also stated that for the time being, he feels most clerks feel that they do not have to issue a marriage license if they feel that the children would be in a situation that would make them vulnerable. It is more than strange to me........ Beebe wants to avoid the extra cost of fixing the law and would instead take the risk of being sued. Yes, in this sue-crazy nation, he has stated that he feels that clerks will do what is "right" but that may not be what is on the books for law. I would bet that there is going to be someone who will challenge the decision a clerk makes in the near future.