A bill designed to keep undocumented immigrants from getting married in Louisiana earned final approval from lawmakers on Wednesday. The state's House and Senate both approved the bill that has been sent to Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal for consideration.
The bill is designed to crack down on marriage fraud, proponents said. The final version, sponsored by Republican Rep. Valarie Hodges, would require a birth certificate and a valid international ID or passport for a person to receive a marriage license, the Associated Press reported. The bill would also reportedly require that couples say under oath that they did not lie on marriage paperwork. It also requires that foreign language birth certificates be translated.
"Fraudulent marriage is the number one way to get a green card," said Sen. A.G. Crowe during a Senate debate in favor of the bill, according to the AP. Hodges said that local judges and clerks across Louisiana -- reportedly dealing with marriage fraud -- requested the bill. Critics, however, said marriage fraud isn't a widespread problem in the state.
Republican state Rep. Conrad Appel said the bill was an "anti-marriage" effort and that there was no "epidemic of fraudulent marriage." Appel attempted to change the bill, but was not successful. "If we are going to try to use marriage as an immigration control tool, I think that's a mistake," Appel said. "Why are we trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist?"
A major sticking point for opponents of the bill was reportedly a change in a law that allows a judge to overrule identity requirements in allowing a couple's marriage. Under current law, it is up to a judge's discretion. Opponents of the bill pointed out that this change could affect American citizens without a birth certificate as well as undocumented immigrants.
"There are rural areas where people still sign 'X' by their name and were born at home without a birth certificate," said Sen. J.P Morrell.
A different controversial bill involving marriage was tabled in May by state lawmakers. Proponents said the bill advanced religious freedom by allowing opponents of gay marriage to refuse service to those couples, but critics said it promoted discrimination.