- Ingvard Ashby
The Legislature has done a lot of dumb things this session, which is an evergreen sentence if we’ve ever written one.
Recently, it wasted time hearing a bill that would put “In God We Trust” on state buildings, while letting bills on mental health, criminal justice reform and education die without getting a hearing. It has also done a lot of ego stroking, hoping the president notices it and gives it a thumbs-up or something.
But Republican legislators really outdid themselves last week when they decided to go back a century and reject a bill that would’ve banned child marriage in Oklahoma. The bill, authored by Rep. Jason Dunnington, would’ve prohibited children under 16 years from getting married and required 16- and 17 year-olds to get emancipated before getting married.
Every single vote against the bill was from a Republican legislator. However, there were a few Republicans who voted in favor, so we’d like to commend them on having common decency for humanity.
Lawmakers who rejected the bill said they didn’t want to take away any parental input.
Rep. Jim Olsen said child marriages are typically reserved for "unusual exceptions that historically have been taken care of within the family” and the situation normally turns out better when parents have input, according to The Oklahoman.
"Overall, the great majority of parents are going to do things that are good for their children," Olsen said.
That’s probably true, but we find it hard to believe child marriage is ever truly as appropriate as some might believe. Oklahoma was ranked No. 4 in the nation among teen marriage rates, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center analysis. Experts say Oklahoma’s high pregnancy rates and cultural norms (aka hyper Christianity) might be the reason.
“We're seeing more people cohabitating at ages they used to get married. In Oklahoma, if it's unacceptable to cohabitate, it might push people into marriage earlier than they might otherwise,” Karina Shreffler, a professor at Oklahoma State University, told The Oklahoman in 2017.
Thankfully, Dunnington brought the bill back up and had it pass with 78 votes in support and 16 still opposed. Though we might be making moves to no longer be Top 10 in something, maybe that was an overly vague, silly and superficial thing to aspire to in the first place.