CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A bill that would have prohibited minors from getting married in West Virginia was defeated Wednesday night in a legislative committee.
The Republican-dominated Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the bill on a 9-8 vote, a week after it passed the House of Delegates.
The vote came shortly after the bill’s main sponsor, Democratic Del. Kayla Young of Kanawha County, testified briefly before the committee. She said that since 2000 there have been more than 3,600 marriages in the state involving one or more children.
Currently, children can marry as young as 16 in West Virginia with parental consent. Anyone younger than that also must get a judge’s waiver.
“For now, there will be no floor for the age of marriage in WV, endangering our kids,” Young wrote on Twitter after the vote.
In a rebuke, Cabell County Democratic Sen. Mike Woelfel reminded the committee after the vote that Wednesday was International Women’s Day.
Some of the bill’s opponents have argued that teenage marriages are a part of life in West Virginia.
Kanawha County Republican Sen. Mike Stuart, a former federal prosecutor who sided with the majority, said his vote “wasn’t a vote against women.” He said his mother was married when she was 16, and “six months later, I came along. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”
In a statement responding to the vote, the West Virginia Democratic Party said striking down the bill “set the calendar back to a time when women were little more than chattel property under the law.”