Teen Groom

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

The marriage of a teen to a 37-year-old woman who is accused of molesting him has focused new attention on Georgia's age requirements for marriage.

But legislative leaders have stopped short of endorsing a change.

Jerry Keen, the House majority leader, said that it is very difficult to govern by exception. Keen says it is necessary to govern by rule.

Lisa Lynnette Clark 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 couples to marry regardless of age and without parental consent if the female is pregnant.

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.

Keen and Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams said that instead of focusing on changing the marital age requirements, the state's lawmakers will focus on passing stricter penalties for those convicted of child molestation. Keen said the legislation would require at least 25 years in prison and force a person convicted to wear an electronic tracking device within the state's borders after their release.

State Representative 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.


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