The United States of Child Marriages

08.29.18
"Groom and bride holding hands." Photo by Wu Jianxiong on Unsplash

The state of Missouri is officially raising it’s minimum marriage age… to 16.

Yep, you heard that right- they RAISED the age to 16. Before this, 15 year olds in Missouri were allowed to get married to anyone of any age, supposedly making Missouri a “destination spot for underage-brides”, according to a local news outlet. Along with the new age minimum, no longer will people over the age of 21 be allowed to marry anyone under 18 years old. And, for anyone getting married under the age of 18, written consent from the parent will be required. This may be a step forward, but many Twitter users are calling the law too little, too late.

At any age, getting married is a pretty big deal. You’re essentially devoting your entire life and future to one person, with the hopes that everything continues to work out well. And if the marriage ends up in divorce, you may face an extreme financial and emotional disaster. But, in America, we seem to be doing it all the time. In 2016, there were over 2 million marriages in the United States. That means over 4 million people got married. But maybe what’s most shocking is that laws in the United States allow young people, sometimes straight up kids, to get married.

Missouri isn’t the only problematic state when it comes to child-marriage. Many states have outdated marriage laws, allowing ridiculously young people to get married. A report by the Kansas City Star showed that almost half the states, 22 of the 50, don’t even have a minimum age for marriage. 

Parental consent/ judicial approval is usually all that’s necessary. These states include:

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

The Tahirih Justice Center conducted a report on child marriages in the United States in 2015 and gathered some really surprising and upsetting data.

State’s that have enacted age laws for marriage, like Alaska, North Carolina, and New Hampshire, aren’t necessarily protecting children. In Alaska and North Carolina, the minimum age is 14 and in New Hampshire, boys as young as 14 can get married and girls as young as 13 can get married.

Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, and Utah have a minimum marriage age of 15.

The report by the Tahirih Justice Center also found only 3 states (Texas, Virginia, and New York) limit marriage to legal adults. And, from 2000 to 2015, over 200,000 children in America got married.

It seems that in large parts of America, the idea of two grown men getting married has been a bigger controversy than a grown man marrying a child.

It seems like the United States isn’t keeping marriage laws up with the times. Minimum marriage ages are put into the hands of states, but almost half the states’ don’t care about the age, or think parents and courts should be responsible. But many people are grossed out that adults can marry kids; that’s why Missouri just raised their minimum. It may have been normal a hundred years ago for a grown man to marry a 15 year old girl, but many people would call that statutory rape today.

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