North Carolina Hopefully Ready To Stop Letting Adults Marry High School Freshmen
Here at Wonkette, we like to give credit where credit is due, and on this occasion we would like to give the state of North Carolina credit for putting forward a bill that would end its reputation as a vacation destination for anyone interested in marrying a 14-year-old child. Because that is apparently a thing that an adult can currently do there, without going to jail. Ew.
It is all, shall we say, pretty fucking horrifying, via WCSC:
The proposed legislation would raise the minimum marriage age from 14 to 16 and limit the age difference between a 16-year-old and their spouse to four years.
A study by the International Center for Research on Women estimates that nearly 8,800 minors were listed on marriage licenses in North Carolina from 2000-2015.
That places the state among the top five with child marriages during that period. Of the state's child marriages through 2019, 93% involved adult spouses.
Cue your internal screaming.
Given that there is not really any kind of non-horrifying reason for an adult person to be marrying a high school freshman, this seems like a pretty good idea. Given that it seems highly unlikely that anyone other than people who want to marry 14-year-old children believes adults should be able to marry 14-year-old children, it should not be too hard for this bill to pass. Unfortunately there have been some problems. The Raleigh News & Observer reports:
Sen. Danny Britt, a Lumberton Republican, said his colleagues have told him they support the intent behind the original bill draft, which would have banned all child marriages, but couldn't vote to pass it because they either married as minors, married a minor or know someone who married as a minor.
Yeah. That was a couple weeks ago, though. Hopefully it's all been sorted out.
Should you be thinking that this is just a "Southern" problem, it's worthwhile to note that Massachusetts actually has the lowest age requirement for marriage in the United States — an adult person can marry a 12-year-old girl there, so long as her parents consent. Same for a 14-year-old boy. And yet at the same time, the legal age of consent to sex there is 16. So basically they're saying 12-year-olds are capable of giving consent to marry an adult, but not to sleep with them. And to be clear, neither is good, but it does seem like there ought to be some consistency.
There really is not a good reason for why this should be left up to the states, and not just for the very obvious reason that adults should not be marrying high school freshmen. Something that is rape in one state should not be totally legal in another, or legal as long as the adult raping the child marries them. Either someone is capable of consent or they're not, and it should not matter where they happen to live. It seems fair to say those ineligible for a driver's license, never mind ineligible to get into bars or buy lottery tickets or cigarettes, probably are not ready to commit to marrying an adult. It's really not clear how parental approval is a reason to allow such a thing rather than a really good reason to call child protective services.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse