Jump to content
The Talon House

Georgia, Where Gays Can't Wed But Children Can


Recommended Posts

Georgia, Where Gays Can't Wed But Children Can

by Greg Bluestein, Associated Press

Posted: November 15, 2005 9:00 pm ET

(Atlanta, Georgia) Ever since her 13-year-old niece wed a 14-year-old boy last year, Sharon Cline has sent lawmakers a slew of letters begging them to change a Georgia law that allows children of any age to marry -- and without parental consent -- as long as the bride-to-be is pregnant.

"Some of the lawmakers just didn't believe this could happen," said Cline, who lives in Weston, Fla. "It was very frustrating."

They're believers now.

Lisa Lynnette Clark, 37, was charged last week in Gainesville with child molestation for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old friend of her teenage son. Just days before her arrest, she wed the boy under a Georgia law that allows pregnant couples to marry regardless of age and without consent.

Disturbed by the child groom, Georgia lawmakers may soon debate changing a law that many didn't know even existed. Geared toward preventing out-of-wedlock births, the law dates back to at least the early 1960s.

"I never knew it was in the code until this morning," Jerry Keen, the state's House Majority Leader, said Tuesday. "Our legislative counsel -- the lawyers who draft the laws -- even had to look it up."

Still, Keen and other leaders in the Republican-controlled Legislature stopped short of endorsing a change to the state's marital requirements.

"It's very difficult to govern by exception. You have to govern by rule," said Keen, who is from St. Simons.

Instead, Keen and Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams said the state's GOP lawmakers will focus on passing stricter penalties for those convicted of child molestation. Keen said the legislation would require convicts to spend at least 25 years in prison and wear an electronic tracking device within the state's borders after their release.

Democratic lawmakers, recently in the minority after more than a century in power, may hope a proposal to change the marriage standards will drive a wedge in the GOP majority.

State Rep. Karla Drenner of Avondale Estates said she plans to author a bill that would bar children under age 16 to marry regardless of the circumstances or at least require parental consent.

As the only openly gay elected official in Georgia's state government, Drenner said the irony of the lax marriage standards for minors is not lost upon her -- particularly a year after lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

"We're protecting society from the perceived threat of homosexual marriage, which was already illegal," she said. "But yet if you're pregnant, you can get married -- and it doesn't matter if you're 9 years old or 10 years old."

Meanwhile, Daniel Sammons, Clark's court-appointed attorney, said he will likely use the marriage as a shield to prevent the boy from testifying against Clark.

Sammons said his defense is also bolstered by a 2004 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that restricted prosecutors from using a wife's taped statement to police to try to undermine her husband at a trial. The ruling, he said, will make it difficult for prosecutors to rely on a witness statement that the boy gave detectives.

Even before Clark's arrest grabbed national headlines, the state's law was last month lampooned on the TV sitcom "George Lopez." In the episode, the title character's daughter threatened to elope in Georgia because her parents didn't approve of her boyfriend.

Cline sent every Georgia lawmaker a transcript of the scene to remind them that her family's case is not an isolated incident and does not reflect kindly on the state.

"I hope someone starts listening to these stories," Cline said. "I hope they don't think it's a one-time thing. It's happening enough to where the law needs be changed."

©365Gay.com 2005


Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...