BY: Citizens Count
Currently every state in the country allows some minors under the age of 18 to marry, with certain permissions. New Hampshire is one of a number of states that are pushing to change their existing laws by raising the minimum age for marriage.
Current marriage laws in NH
Today, New Hampshire law allows boys as young as 14 and girls as young as 13 to enter into a marriage contract, with parental permission and approval from a court.
Move to raise the marriage age
Representative Jacalyn Cilley (D-Strafford) has introduced HB 1587 for the 2018 legislative session which—in addition to establishing procedures for the emancipation of minors—would raise the minimum age for heterosexual marriage to 16 for both girls and boys.
Eighteen would remain the minimum age for entering into a gay marriage.
"What many people consider one of our most solemn contracts that entails, literally, 1,168 different privileges, responsibilities and benefits, somebody at the age of 13 can enter into in the state of New Hampshire."
Supporters agree and claim that children are not mature enough to enter into a truly consensual marriage contact. They express concern that young people might be coerced by parents or guardians into predatory or abusive marriages with older adults. (New Hampshire's statutory rape laws don't apply to married couples.) Not only do more child marriages end in divorce but more young girls who marry don’t finish their education.
Opposition to raising the marriage age
Those against changing the existing law argue that judges should be able to approve marriage in exceptional circumstances such as teen pregnancy or prior to enlistment in the military where marriage would extend benefits to the spouse. Additionally, parental consent and a judge’s consent are already required for anyone under 18 to marry—those opposed to HB 1587 argue that these are sufficient safeguards against abuse.
"There are circumstances where I believe it is appropriate -- again, with the consent of parents and guardians and with the approval of the court. I believe there are circumstances where a minor should be able to get married."
Do you think that children under 16 should retain the right to marry or should the law be changed to raise the minimum age? Tell us what you think in the comments below.