Good News: Despite objections from religious conservatives, Delaware becomes the first state to completely ban child marriage.
The new law allows no exceptions for child marriage. In Delaware, one must now be 18 years or older to marry, full stop.
On Wednesday, Delaware Governor John Carney signed into law a bill setting the minimum marriage age at 18, making his state the first in the U.S. to ban child marriage.
The law takes effect immediately. Previously, a minor in that state could get married at any age with a judge’s approval.
Before the new law, there was “an exception for circumstances that would otherwise be considered statutory rape,” such as approval of an underage marriage by a court, or parental consent.
Addressing the now closed loophole, Sen. Anthony Delcollo declared:
This bill would eliminate this backward and, what I consider, unacceptable exception. For every other purpose, we view individuals under the age of 18 as having insufficient legal capacity to make decisions, enter into contracts, hire attorneys , and do all similar acts. It flies in the face of reason to think that the incredibly important decision to marry should be any different.
Also commenting on the new law, Rep. Kim Williams, said:
Children under 18 have no legal standing–they cannot file for divorce, utilize a domestic violence shelter, apply for a loan or open a credit card. They cannot enter any legal contract, but until this bill was signed they could be married as a child without any way of escaping an abusive marriage,
Now that we have closed this loophole in Delaware law, children will be protected from forced marriage and its dangerous consequences. I am so proud that Delaware is leading the way to protect children, and I hope that other states follow suit.
The bill banning child marriage was passed by the Delaware state House along party lines, with Democrats supporting the ban and Republicans opposing the law protecting children.This party divide between Republican and Democrat is a common story when it comes to child marriage. Last year, citing concern for religious traditions, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, vetoed an almost identical bill that would have banned child marriage in New Jersey.
At the time, in an attempt to justify his veto, Christie said:
I agree that protecting the well-being, dignity, and freedom of minors is vital, but the severe bar this bill creates is not necessary to address the concerns voiced by the bill’s proponents and does not comport with the sensibilities and, in some cases, the religious customs, of the people of this State.
And Christie is certainly not the only Republican who objects to a complete ban on child marriage because of the concerns of religious conservatives.
Earlier this year, Republican controlled state legislatures in both Tennessee and Kentucky killed similar bills that would ban child marriage. In each case, GOP religious conservatives were responsible for killing the legislation that would protect children.
Bottom line: Despite objections from religious conservatives, Delaware becomes the first state to issue a complete ban on child marriage.
Well done Delaware, thank you.