States Aim to Curtail Child Marriage

This past week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill banning all marriages for minors under 16 years old. For 16 and 17-year old minors, parental consent is required and their partners can’t be more than three years older. Arizona is the third state to pass legislation to increase barriers to underage marriage in the last four weeks.

State legislators from both sides of the aisle are a part of the recent push to reduce underage marriage. In late March, Kentucky passed one of the country’s strictest underage marriage laws. The bipartisan bill bans marriage for minors under the age of 17 and requires the consent of a judge. This follows recently passed legislation in Florida, Connecticut, Texas, and New York that also aims to restrict underage marriage.

No state bans marriage to a minor without exception, but many include restrictions, such as requiring parental consent and/or approval from a judge. As of 2014, 57,800 minors were currently married with some as young as 12, according to the Pew Research Center. These children are at increased risk of psychiatric disorders and domestic abuse. There are economic risk factors as well, including increased risk of becoming a high school dropout and living in poverty.

Additionally, numerous states are currently reviewing bills aimed at strengthening their underage marriage laws. This includes Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware who are attempting to ban marriage to a minor without exception.