North Carolina Lawmakers Want to Axe Law That Allows Adults to Marry Children Aged 14
Aug 15, 2021
by Adam Manno
North Carolina is set to pass a law raising the minimum age people can get married from 14 to 16, and will also ban 16 year-olds from marrying anyone who is older than 20.
Children ages 16 or 17 would also need parental permission or a judge’s decision that the marriage would ‘serve the best interest of an underage party.’
Six states have banned all forms of child marriage, but change has been slow in North Carolina, where some lawmakers remain convinced that certain marriages involving a child are still acceptable.
‘It’s a generational divide,’ said Sen. Vickie Sawyer, a Davidson County Republican. ‘It was older members — both Democrat and Republicans — that had those personal stories of family members who had been married and it turned out OK.’
…Two-thirds of the marriage applications in Buncombe County last year were filed by nonresidents seeking to marry an underage person, Reisinger said, noting that a 49-year-old man and 17-year-old girl recently came from Kentucky seeking a license.
Reisinger said the county, which includes the popular tourist city of Asheville, is a destination for many adults and child brides from nearby states such as Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee – all of which have raised the minimum marriage age in recent years.
‘North Carolina is one of the friendliest states in the South to give them safe haven,’ he said.
The state is currently one of 13 that allow children under 16 to wed, according to Unchained at Last, a nonprofit organization that advocates ending child and forced marriages in the U.S.
Nine of those states have no set minimum age, the group says, relying instead on case law or a judge’s ruling.
Based the group’s definition of a ‘child’ as anyone under 18, almost all of the US allows some form of child marriage except for the states of Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Rhode Island.
Under current North Carolina law, children as young as 14 can get married if they become pregnant and if a judge allows it.
Otherwise, children can wed as young as 16 with parental permission.
Alaska is the only other state whose law expressly allows marriages as young as 14.