West Virginia Bans Marriages Under Age 16 to Protect Children
West Virginia has passed a bill banning marriages under the age of 16. The legislation passed in the House of Delegates with a vote of 83-9 without debate on Saturday, following the Senate’s endorsement of the measure after making changes to an earlier version. Republican Gov. Jim Justice has yet to indicate whether he will sign it.
Previously, children as young as 16 could get married in West Virginia with parental consent, while anyone younger could marry with a judge’s waiver. The new bill removes the possibility of marriage for anyone under 16. Those aged 16 and 17 would need parental consent, and they cannot marry someone more than four years older than them. Existing legal marriages, including those performed in other states, would be unaffected.
Bill banning marriages under age 16 passes in West Virginia
West Virginia had the highest rate of child marriages in the country in 2014, with an average of 7.1 marriages for every 1,000 children aged 15 to 17, according to the Pew Research Center. Seven states have set the minimum age for marriage at 18 since 2018. Advocates of this legislation argue that it reduces domestic violence, unwanted pregnancies, and improves the lives of teens. While some Democrats had hoped to eliminate child marriage altogether, some Republicans argued that such marriages protect families, as they or their parents had married before adulthood.
In conclusion, the passage of this bill in West Virginia marks a significant step towards protecting the state’s youngest children. With the state’s high rate of child marriages, advocates hope that this legislation will reduce domestic violence, unwanted pregnancies, and improve the lives of teens. While some Democrats wanted to eliminate child marriage entirely, Republicans argued that such marriages protect families. With the bill now passed, it remains to be seen whether Gov. Jim Justice will sign it into law.