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House passes bill to raise minimum marriage age to 18, sending it to governor

If signed into legislation, SB 359 would make New Hampshire one in every of 12 states which have banned marriage below 18 with no exceptions. (Getty Images)

The New Hampshire House handed a bill Thursday elevating the authorized age of marriage to 18, sending the laws to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk after years of advocacy.

Senate Bill 359, which handed 192-174, states that “no person below the age of 18 years shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage, and all marriages contracted by such persons shall be null and void.” Under current legislation, that age is 16.

The bill would additionally repeal statutes that presently present authorized avenues for minors to marry. Currently, RSA 457:6 permits mother and father and guardians for these between 16 and 18 to petition a household court docket to grant permission for the marriage. That petition should embody a sign of whether or not the Division for Children, Youth and Families has ever been concerned with the kid, and it permits the court docket to conduct an interview with every minor getting married with out their mother and father current. SB 359 would get rid of the method solely.

If signed into legislation, SB 359 would make New Hampshire one in every of 12 states which have banned marriage below 18 with no exceptions, an inventory that features Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, according to UNICEF

Maine presently permits 16- and 17-year-olds to marry with written consent from their mother and father, authorized guardians, or custodians. But any marriage of minors in Maine could be invalid in New Hampshire if SB 359 turns into legislation. 

The bill comes after years of strain by Rep. Cassandra Levesque, a Barrington Democrat. In 2018, Levesque, then 19 and never but a state consultant, advocated for the Legislature to raise the marriage age to 18 from 14; House and Senate Republicans agreed to go a bill to raise it to 16 as a substitute. Later that yr, Levesque gained her first election to the House and has continued to press for the age to be raised to 18. 

Levesque argued elevating the age would assist cut back exploitative conditions. 

“The committee found that this bill is important to be in law because we know that age of majority does not amount to maturity, and that there is a greater risk of human trafficking and domestic violence without these protections,” she mentioned in remarks within the House Calendar introducing SB 359. 

Republican lawmakers have opposed elevating the marriage age lately. On Thursday, Rep. Margaret Drye, a Plainfield Republican, argued there have been some circumstances during which marriage was a useful choice for these below 18. 

Drye recounted two instances when a pal or a member of the family had obtained judicial approval for a marriage under the age of 16 due to an sudden being pregnant. 

“They elected to get married because that offered to the young woman things that she didn’t have before: stability, provision, protection, and a chance for a young family to be a family before a baby arrived,” she mentioned. “The goal was still the same: marriage and raising a family together. They just got there in a little different timeline.”

Rep. Jess Edwards argued that taking away the potential for marriage may lead extra 16- and 17-year-olds to abortion.

“… If we continually restrict the freedom of marriage as a legitimate social option, when we do this to people who are a ripe, fertile age and may have a pregnancy and a baby involved, are we not in fact making abortion a much more desirable alternative, when marriage might be the right solution for some freedom-loving couples?” he mentioned. 

And Rep. Tony Lekas of Hudson cited his marriage to Rep. Alicia Lekas, additionally of Hudson, which he mentioned started when he was 16. “And we didn’t need any outside input from anyone,” he mentioned. “We’ve been married almost 53 years.” 

Rep. Josh Yokela, a Fremont Republican, launched two amendments that might have made an exception to the 18-year-old marriage requirement if the minors had been emancipated by a court docket. 

But House Democrats countered that youngsters shouldn’t be married at 16 or 17 below any circumstances. And they disagreed that emancipation ought to be a qualification. 

“The fact of the matter is that emancipated minors cannot vote; they cannot purchase or consume tobacco or alcohol; they cannot purchase firearms,” mentioned Rep. Peter Petrigno. “Why then would we allow for an age exception to marriage and nothing else?” 

Petrigno argued that emancipated youngsters are a few of the most weak youngsters, and may very well be taken benefit of by adults if allowed to marry.

“Marriage is an emotional lifetime commitment based on love, not a solution to an unintended pregnancy,” he mentioned. “We should not be putting children in a position to be taken advantage of by unsavory adults.”

Both of Yokela’s amendments have been voted down. The bill will head to Sununu’s desk within the coming weeks. 

The publish House passes bill to raise minimum marriage age to 18, sending it to governor appeared first on New Hampshire Bulletin.

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