The Missouri House is advancing a bill that would ban marriages of children ages 14 years old or younger. Under current law, children ages 15-17 can get married with permission from a parent. Those younger than 15 need approval from a judge.
We have to admit we didn’t know what the legal age was for marriage, but 14 is way too young under any circumstance. I think most would agree even 15-17 is too young.
House members gave the proposal initial approval in a voice vote Wednesday. It needs another vote to go to the Senate.
Republican Rep. Jean Evans’ bill would require 15- to 17-yearolds to get a judge’s approval following a court hearing. Children 14 years old or younger couldn’t get marriage licenses.
The measure also would ban marriages if one partner is at least 21 years old and the other is younger than 17.
We often hear about child marriage in the context of other countries, but it’s also a problem right here in the United States.
Child advocates say there are many potential problems with marrying at a young age and research shows the many negative outcomes of early teen marriage, including one or both dropping out of high school to work full-time, higher incidences of poverty, domestic violence and divorce, and the many psychological effects. There are lifetime consequences when we allow children to marry.
Parental consent does not offer adequate protection. In some cases, a teen may be forced into a marriage they don’t want and having one parent’s consent doesn’t stop a child from being trafficked. Some teens might be fleeing a bad home situation and think marriage will offer them a better life, but too often that’s not the case.
Teenagers are simply not mature enough for marriage, and oftentimes their behavior and attitudes can be juvenile in nature. This immaturity can cause both partners to make decisions that are rash or silly. Teens also aren’t ready for financial responsibilities that come with marriage, such as paying rent and utilities, buying groceries and securing employment that provides them with insurance.
So what should be the minimum age to marry? We don’t know, but 14 is way too young.