New Hampshire Raises Age for Children to Marry

By: - June 20, 2018 12:00 am

Women in chains protest against child marriage at the New York Capitol in Albany. This week, New Hampshire raised the age at which minors can marry. Anna Gronewold/AP

New Hampshire, which has one of the lowest legal ages of marriage in the country, has raised the age at which teens can wed.

State law allows girls as young as 13 and boys as young as 14 to get married with the permission of a judge and their parents. But this week, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill into law that raises that age to 16 starting in 2019.

Cassandra Levesque, 19, a former Girl Scout, spent last session urging state lawmakers to raise the marriage age to 18. The measure failed to pass after opponents said judges should be able to approve young marriages in exceptional circumstances, such as a pregnancy or someone joining the military.

The minimum age for marriage varies widely by state, and many don’t set a lower limit but simply require that anyone under 18 get the approval of a judge or their parents.

Former child brides say those safeguards aren’t enough, as many parents, including those with ties to cultures or religions that promote arranged marriage, pressure their children to marry. And they also say judges are not always an effective stopgap in questioning whether a child is being coerced into marriage — particularly if the parents are present.

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Rebecca Beitsch

Rebecca Beitsch writes about energy and the environment for Stateline. She covered state government in Missouri and North Dakota, writing about politics and policy for NewsRadio KMOX, the Columbia Missourian and the Bismarck Tribune.