At least three states tried to outlaw teen marriage this year, a reminder people under 18 can legally get married in the United States.
Unchained At Last, an organization fighting against forced and arranged marriages, claims while most states set the minimum marriage age at 18, every state allows minors to get married through exceptions. In many states, 16- and 17-year-olds can get married with approval from a judge or their parents.
The Florida Legislature passed a bill last week limiting the marriage age to 17 after trying to cut it off at 18. The bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican. Similar bills in Kentucky and Tennessee stalled.
Florida saw more than 1,800 marriages involving a minor from 2012 to 2016, among them were 13, 14 and 15-year-olds.
More than half of U.S. states set their general age of consent for sex at 16, while the rest set it at either 17 or 18, wrote UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh in a column for the Washington Post.
Many states don't set a minimum age for marriage and some allow for children under 16 to get married, notes the Tahirih Justice Center, which aims to achieve legal and social justice for women and girls. For instance, a judge in Alaska can sign-off on the marriage of a 14-year-old.
About 167,000 children were married in the U.S. from 2000 to 2010, Unchained data from 38 states shows. Unchained estimates the total national number would be roughly 248,000 had twelve states and Washington, D.C., provided data. The children often were young girls marrying adult men.
About half of the world sets 18 as the youngest at which a person can get married, Unchained reports. About 700 million women and girls today were married as a child.
Spearheading the effort to pass the Florida measure was Sherry Johnson, a woman who gave birth at 10 years old after getting raped by a church deacon.
“It would have changed my life by not allowing me to get married, to continue to have children, to continue to have my downfall,” she told the Associated Press. “I would have been a single mother and I think would have done well.”
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