I have to apologize to my readers, because in my last article I misled all of you. Not only was the title misleading, but it was a hodge-podge of information about rice and soy milk mixed with my own personal feelings about a controversial law regarding child marriage. To rectify that, I’ve decided this article will be solely about the controversial law and shed some light on what exactly it means going forward.
As mentioned in my last column, I’ve lived in Louisiana my whole life, and I’ve seen some things that seemingly only happen here. Or at least, that’s my hope, because if every state made some of the decisions we do, then I would fear for this great country we live in.
One of the salient laws I was aware of was regarding child marriage in this state. Before the most recent change, a child could legally get married at any age. In 2015 alone, according to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), there were 63 children married, the youngest of which was 14 at the time of the marriage. I don’t think I have to repeat that for it to sink in.
Along with this, not only was it commonplace, but it was also advised to marry in circumstances where one party would be convicted of statutory rape or sexual delinquency with a minor. At the time this baffled me. On the surface, it looked like the law was actually aiding the cover of a criminal act. I wasn’t wrong in my assessment; that’s exactly what it was.
That leads us to the recent bill, in which there was set to be a minimum age for marriage in the state. As usual, we were fairly late to the punch, but better late than never. I had hope when I heard the bill was to show up, but what I didn’t expect was the response.
The bill wasn’t a wash. In fact, it was one of the most hotly debated on the docket, with one side arguing for a minimum age and the other arguing to keep things how they are, so to speak. This “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” attitude reminded me why so many people talk down on the pelican state when I travel out of it.
This wasn’t supposed to be debated or argued. It was meant to correct a mistake that our state made when it was in its infancy and show we’ve evolved as a society. To the lawmakers' credit, it did improve, but not quite as much as we’d hoped.
As of now — after Governor John Bel Edwards signs it into law — there will be a minimum age of 16 to marry. A lot of the same problems apply, such as it still being a way out for crimes of a sexual nature with someone underaged. These problems don’t go away, they just become a little easier to swallow.
But I need to ask something of my readers, don’t fall for this phony act of compassion. Don’t swallow a pill of injustice, no matter how small it is in comparison. There are problems with this state, large, glaring problems, and I ask that you don’t forget about them because the shine isn’t blinding. Progress doesn’t just take work it takes resilience. It takes consistency and courage to shout in the face of a system deaf by design.
It’s going to take a long time, but keep trying. This is a fight for all of us. We are the future, so let’s be proud of the future we build.