U.S.

Age of Legal Marriage is Still Below 18 in Some States

Minors as young as 14 years old are able to marry with judicial consent in at least 36 states, according to the Pew Research Center. In 34 states across the country, 16- and 17-years-olds are able to tie the knot as long as they have their parents’ permission. Teens living in New York, however, may no longer be able to exchange vows before the age of 17. And even then, they’ll still need to have parental and judicial consent to do so.

In a unanimous vote, the State Assembly chose to raise the legal age of marriage in New York in attempts to end child marriage. The bill, which was sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-NY, is awaiting a signature from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, who has previously expressed his desires to abolish child marriage in the state.

Paulin had introduced a similar measure in the state last year but failed to push the legislation forward due to concerns some lawmakers had in regards to religious communities that uphold early marriage rituals.

Ahead of the vote Tuesday, Paulin told The New York Times that the outdated practice prevented young women from experiencing certain life opportunities that they otherwise would have if they hadn’t been ushered into marriage so young.

“The current New York law is, at best, antiquated,” she said. “It reflects a time when everyone married younger. Times have changed. Child marriage is coerced marriage. It condemns young women to a life they did not choose.”

Pew’s analysis of child marriage, which was released in November 2016, found nearly 58,000 minors in the U.S. between the ages of 15 and 17 had been married as of 2014. While child marriage wasn’t so common in in the Northeast or Midwest—only two out of every 1,000 15-to-17-year-olds had exchanged nuptials in Maine and Rhode Island, the report said—in southern states, teen marriage occurred much more frequently, with seven out of every 1,000 15-to-17-year-olds tying the knot in states like West Virginia and Texas. The national average for child marriage rates within that particular age group was five out of every 1,000.

Most states have laws setting the legal age of marriage with parental consent at 16, but there are some areas of America that have not set specific age requirements for marriage. The lack thereof has caused educational experts, family lawyers and women’s rights groups to beef up their efforts to abolish child marriage or establish laws preventing the practice across the U.S. Many have argued child marriage results in social, educational and financial afflictions on teenaged girls.

Although the bill passed favorably, there was some pushback for the legal age of marriage to be reduced to 16 from some Assembly members, including Dov Hikind, a Democrat, who represents an area of Brooklyn that is home to a large population of Hasidic Jews.

“Not once in my 35 years in office—in a community where people are encouraged to get married at a young age—did someone say this is an issue, this was a problem, this was wrong,” he told the Times when the bill was reintroduced earlier in the year.

In some religions, including certain sects of Judaism, children are able to marry as young as 12.