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Your Turn: Child Marriage Laws

by Countable | Updated on 3.12.18

Child marriage in the news recently

  • A bill to limit underage marriage in Kentucky has been delayed after the conservative Family Foundation of Kentucky voiced concerns about the wording. Under current law, 16- and 17-year-olds can marry with their parents’ permission. Children under the age of 16 are allowed to marry if they are pregnant and marrying the father of their baby.

  • Last Friday, Florida passed legislation prohibiting marriage for anyone under 17. A woman who was 11 when she was forced to marry her rapist worked for six years to get the law passed. "My heart is happy," she said after the bill cleared the House on a 109-1 vote. “My goal was to protect our children and I feel like my mission has been accomplished. This is not about me. I survived.”

  • A report by The Kansas City Star published over the weekend found that "Missouri is a destination wedding spot—for 15-year-old brides." In Missouri, the Star explained, “brides and grooms as young as 15 can marry with no more than the single approving swipe of their parent’s pen, even if the other parent objects.”

  • Prosecutors are often less likely to file statutory rape charges when the victim and older partner get married.

The laws for child marriage vary from state to state

  • Many states allow children - usually defined as someone under the age of 18 - to get married, though they differ in minimum age and other requirements.

  • Half of all states have no minimum age to marry, but do require anyone under 14 to obtain a judge’s approval. (In New Hampshire, for instance, girls must be at least 13, and boys at least 14. Anyone under 18 needs a parent’s consent and permission from a county judge.)

  • In eight states, children under the age of 15 can only marry if the bride is pregnant or already a mother.

  • Over the last two years, New York, Texas, and Virginia have passed legislation to ban or restrict child marriage; New York raised the minimum marriage age to 17, Texas to 16, and Virginia to 18.

  • Nonprofit Unchained at Last, which advocates against child marriage, found nearly 248,000 children – some as young as 10 years old – were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010.

What do you think?

Should there be federal legislation on the minimum age to marry? What should the minimum marriage age be? Is there an age that’s "too young" to get married? Should marriage remain a loophole for statutory rape? Hit Take Action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: LightFieldStudios / iStock)

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Written by Countable

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(157)
  • Chickie
    03/12/2018
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    Good Lord are we living in the 1800’s? You might as well take away the girls shoes as well so that she can be both pregnant and barefoot. In centuries past, the age limit was lower because our lifespan was about 40 years old. It’s not anymore! It should be a federal law to prohibit children from crossing state lines in order to marry too young.

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  • Anwar
    03/12/2018
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    I am shocked that we still live in a country where we undervalue the innocence of children. This should be a no brainer. If a child at 16 is not deemed competent to buy a gun, drink alcoholic beverages, or open a bank account, how can they consent to marriage. And, if a parent allows a minor child to marry a adult that parent should be reported to child services. This is crazy that there is even a debate.

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  • KansasTamale
    03/12/2018
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    Even reading this makes me sick to my stomach. There has to be an age restriction. No one under that age of 18 should be allowed to marry. NO ONE SHOULD BE FORCED TO MARRY THEIR RAPIST!! NO GIRL SHOULD BE FORCED TO MARRY SOMEONE THEY DON’T KNOW OR WANT TO MARRY.

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  • CharJor
    03/12/2018
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    I believe there should be a nationwide minimum age requirement for legal marriage of at least 18 years without parental consent. People under 18, but not younger than 16, should be able to marry with parental consent. I strongly believe that using marriage as a loophole for statutory rape is abominable. These outdated state laws which favor pedophiles who want to legally rape young children need to be abolished across the board. It is unbelievable that anyone would consider a 10 year old marriageable under any circumstances. Stop facilitating child rape and fix these laws!

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  • Victoria
    03/12/2018
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    Just reading this makes my skin crawl and my heart weep. There should mosy definitely be an age restriction. No one under that age of 18 should be allowed to marry. NO ONE SHOULD BE FORCED TO MARRY THEIR RAPIST!!

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  • Deborah
    03/13/2018
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    Allowing a child to “marry” is tantamount to legalized child rape. I urge you to support establishing 18 as the minimum age to wed throughout the country.

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  • Truly
    03/13/2018
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    WTF! How is this even a question? If you are too young to vote, drink, smoke, enlist, or be tried as an adult you are too young to be married. This is just and excuse to force young girls to marry older men and rapist. When are we as a country going to leave the 1700s behind?

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  • Elizabeth
    03/12/2018
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    What was the argument against gay marriage? They were pedophiles? Save the children from those pesky trans people trying to use the bathroom...? More like save the children from their inbred parents trying to sell them off into marriage to 30/40/50-something year olds. Unreal.

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  • I.Got.an.Idea...
    03/12/2018
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    Maybe it should be easier to get a divorce and more difficult to get married. We need to stop doing things the Conservative way......

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  • Shai
    03/12/2018
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    Child marriage - under the age of 18 - is one of the most toxic examples of Patriarchy. The justification used over and over for this are if a girl is pregnant (rape), or if a parent agrees (either trafficking or offloading an inconvenience) or as long as she marries the man who raped her. NO CHILD CAN GIVE INFORMED CONSENT. American society likes to view itself through a sophisticated lens which we are continually shown to be a distorted, manufactured, extensively marketed and false view. Combating child marriage is but one facet of a restructuring our society needs as a whole.

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  • Luke
    03/12/2018
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    To those that say the federal government has no place deciding this, you are dead wrong and it’s really disgusting to think that you’re essentially supporting a less than 18 marriage rule. We need a federal word of law on this matter, not states deciding when they can marry based on (X) century old doctrines and rules. Eighteen years of age, nationwide regardless of any beliefs that say otherwise. Sorry, not sorry, but anything else is a slap in the face to the growing women of our nation.

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  • Teddi
    03/13/2018
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    Children under 18 should not be allowed (or forced) to marry—even with parental permission. Often times incest and rape are masked when female victims marry their tormentor (often to escape charges). More often than not, these young girls then are subject to physical abuse. They can’t leave because they are too young to be accepted into shelters or to rent an apartment. Few of these very young “brides” finish high school so they are unable to provide for themselves when they are old enough to leave. For these reasons, the minimum age anywhere in the U.S. should be 18, and I support a national law prohibiting childhood marriage.

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  • Jamie
    03/13/2018
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    The age should be the same as to purchase alcohol or vote. A parents signature should not override that and it should NEVER EVER be a loophole for statutory rape, no matter who concedes. A child is just that, a child and cannot make that determination. How are we even having this discussion?

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  • Mark
    03/13/2018
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    It is 2018, we are a free and democratic country, this should be a non-issue. Child marriages are inappropriate and wrong. Super simple stuff, unless you're a pedophile.

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  • Terry
    03/12/2018
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    Come on now. With all the other age limits how can this be allowed.

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  • OlderNWiser
    03/13/2018
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    Marriage under 18 is child abuse. 18 is young, too young, but at least it’s not a parent forcing a child to marry someone who will rape them. Interesting how Muslims are denigrated while Conservatives practice misogyny and child abuse from the 1700s in giving girl children to men to control and use. No state should practice child marriage, another word for child abuse.

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  • Phil
    03/12/2018
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    So this passed the FL legislature 109-1. Who the hell voted against it?

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  • RadicalModerate
    03/12/2018
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    Only religious people would ever make it ok to enslave children through marriage.

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  • Robert
    03/12/2018
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    Maybe we should allow babies who can’t talk yet or can’t write their names to get married- allowing people under the age of 18 to get married is just stupid

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  • operaman
    03/13/2018
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    Personally, I'm not into child marriage. I'll leave child marriage to perverts and Muslims.

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