Saying the measure will prevent the abuse of children, the Florida Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would ban issuing marriage licenses to people under age 18.
Senators cited a case of a woman, Sherry Johnson, who said she was forced to marry at age 11 after being raped and impregnated by an adult. Johnson has lobbied for the bill (SB 140), spearheaded by Senate Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers.
"What it does is closes a loophole so that children cannot be used and abused by folks who, under normal circumstances, would go to jail," Benacquisto said.
Under current law, minors can marry under certain conditions, such as with parental consent or in cases of pregnancies. Numerous senators praised Benacquisto's proposed ban on issuing marriage licenses to minors.
"This bill will help many families, many children, who might be facing this in this state," Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, said. "I believe that this will go a long ways and send a message to those who abuse these children."
The House version of the bill (HB 335), sponsored by Rep. Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami, and Rep. Frank White, R-Pensacola, is scheduled to be heard Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee