In all but one state, children under the age of 18 can be married. Some states require a judge’s consent. Delaware’s governor, John Carney (D) just signed a measure banning marriages involving minors under the age of 18, and it went into immediate effect.
Supporters believe it’s an important step to stop children from being forced into marriage, such as in cases involving human trafficking.
According to Fox News:
“Opponents raised concerns that the law could have implications beyond forced marriages, citing religions that traditionally allow followers to marry young.”
Rep. Kim Williams, (D) introduced the bill to close a loophole that allowed children to marry with the permission of a parent and the consent of a Family Court judge.
“Now that we have closed this loophole in Delaware law, children will be protected from forced marriage and its dangerous consequences,” she said, according to WDEL. “I am so proud that Delaware is leading the way to protect children, and I hope that other states follow suit.”
In 2007, the Legislature passed the rule requiring the judge’s sign-off, which lowered the rate of child marriages in the state.
New York, Connecticut, Texas and Florida have all passed laws raising the minimum age to marry, but Delaware is the first to make it 18 years old.
Rep. Williams was informed by the story of Sherry Johnson in the Florida case. Johnson was raped by a church deacon at 9 years old and forced to marry him at age 11-years-old. The age was raised to 17 for marriages in Florida as a result of Sherry Jonson’s efforts.
— Delaware Online (@delawareonline) April 27, 2018
Somewhere around 200,000 minors were married nationwide since 2000, according to data from state agencies. Almost all of the minors involved were girls, and some were as young as 14 years old.
Curiously, the move to ban child marriages came at the same time that the Delaware Senate voted to overturn the push for an Equal Rights Amendment, which would have amended the state Consitution to strengthen equal rights for women.
“The bill sought to add a single sentence to Delaware’s highest law: ‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of the sex of the person.'”
The fight for equality still has a very long way to go, even as progress is made to protect minors who might otherwise have been forced or coerced into unwanted marriages.
See more in the video from BBC News: “Why does the US have so many child brides?”
Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube