H631, introduced Friday Jan. 14, would prohibit marriage to anyone under the age of 18.
Current law allows minors 16 years old and older to marry with parent or legal guardian’s permission. This bill would strike that provision.
As drafted and introduced, H631 “proposes to raise the age at which a person may obtain a civil marriage to 18 years of age.”
The bill is sponsored by Reps. Carol Ode (D-Burlington), Tiffany Bluemle (D-Burlington), Mollie Burke (D/P-Brattleboro), Sara Coffey (D-Vernon), Seth Bongartz (D-Manchester), Daniel Noyes (D-Wolcott), and Lawrence Satcowitz (D-Randolph).
The bill does not give any reason for raising the legal age of marriage. However, national anti-child marriage advocates point out that more than three-quarters of below-18 married Americans are females married to adult men, raising concerns about negative impacts to these young women. An Instyle.com article notes that “according to UNICEF, girls who marry before they’re 18 are more likely to drop out of school, and more likely to die in childbirth; their chances of living in poverty double while the chances of spousal abuse triple.”
Reasons cited in favor of under-18 marriage include (according to Instyle) pregnancy, a Romeo and Juliet-style “true love” that can’t wait, teens marrying before one of them is deployed, if one partner is serving in the military, and parental abuse.