State Enforces New Marriage Restriction

Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash

On Saturday (March 11), West Virginia’s House of Delegates passed a bill that would allow 16 and 17-year-olds to get married with some restrictions.

The bill passed 83-9 in the House without debate after the state’s Senate passed it after making changes.

Governor Jim Justice (R) has yet to reveal whether he intends to sign the bill heading to his desk.

Saturday’s bill makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to get married in the state. Those aged 16 and 17 would need to receive parental consent to get married and would only be able to marry someone no older than four years their senior.

The new law wouldn’t affect existing legal marriages, including those conducted in other states.

When West Virginia’s Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the bill on Wednesday (March 8), it was considered as good as dead. But State Senator Charles Trump re-introduced it on the Senate floor on Thursday morning, allowing the bill to move to a final vote on Friday.

Some Democrats, including the bill’s sponsor Del. Kayla Young of Kanawha County, expressed their hope that child marriage would be abolished in the state. However, some Republicans explained that either they or their parents had married before adulthood and highlighted how such marriages protected families.

Young expressed being pleased with the bill in its current form, prohibiting those under 16 from getting married and limiting age gaps, explaining that without the changes, she doubts the bill would pass.

Since 2018, seven states have set the minimum age for marriage at 18, according to data from Unchained at Last, a nonprofit that seeks to end child marriage.