Bill introduced to set Minnesota marriage age limit at 18

Minnesota one of 48 states that now allows younger teens to wed

Sloane Martin
February 14, 2020 - 4:15 am
 Signs read "There's nothing romantic about child marriage"

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Minnesota is one of 48 states that allow teens under 18 to marry.

DFL lawmakers have introduced a bill again to change that.

Bill authors Sen. Sandy Pappas and Rep. Kaohly Her — both representing St. Paul — cite research that shows teen girls who marry before they're legal adults are more likely to leave school, live in poverty and suffer abuse.

Advocates Thursday took to the capitol rotunda wearing white wedding gowns and chains around their wrists. In time for Valentine's Day they wore heart necklaces that read: "There's nothing romantic about child marriage."

Fraidy Reese, founder and executive director of the national organization Unchained at Last, a group that fights to end all marriage under 18 without exceptions, says it's too often a case of parental coercion or legally bonding young girls to their abusers.

"We have data from across the US that shows that between 2000 and 2010 an estimated 248,000 children were married," she said. "Almost all of them were girls married to adult men."

The marriage age in Minnesota is 18, but this proposal would end a provision allowing 16 and 17 years olds to marry with parental consent and a judge's approval.

Minnesota would join Delaware and New Jersey that have outlawed marriage under 18.

"As of 2014, the most recent year for which we have the aggregated data, 1,142 children living in Minnesota age 15 to 17 had already been married," Reese said.

Rep. Her said she shudders to think of what life would have been like had her father not stepped in when an adult man eyed her for marriage as a teen.

"I heard my father say to the [man's father] that he would only entertain the thought of marrying their son only after I graduated college," Her said. "Had my father not been my advocate that day my life outcome would have been very different. I would have never gone away to college. I would have never met my husband at school. And I never would have lived all over the country to advance my career."

Activist Dawn Tyree says she was 13 when she was forced to marry the 32-year-old man who raped her. With two children by 16, she tried to leave, but found she couldn't access safe housing, a lawyer, or parental support due to her age.

"The first two things that I would say a child loses upon child marriage is the right to consent and access to education," Tyree said.

Pappas says she was told by Sen. Warren Limmer that the bill is expected to get a hearing in the senate. Last session it passed unanimously in the House but did not get receive a hearing in the Senate.

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