National News

Ohio lawmakers: Raise marriage age to 18

Posted June 28, 2018 8:56 a.m. EDT

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Following a Dayton Daily News investigation into thousands of minors getting married in Ohio, lawmakers this week voted to raise the marriage age to 18 and allow 17-year-olds to marry under some conditions.

Ohio is among a handful of states reforming underage marriage laws. In May, Delaware made it illegal to marry before age 18, becoming the first state to do so. In June, New Jersey followed suit.

House Bill 511 would not be as strict as Delaware and New Jersey. Instead, it would allow a 17-year-old to marry if he or she obtains juvenile court consent and the partner is not more than four years older. A 17-year-old bride or groom would also face a 14-day waiting period.

The bill still needs approval in the Ohio Senate, where a similar bill is already being debated.

Current Ohio law requires brides to be at least 16 and grooms to be at least 18, but exceptions are made for younger, pregnant teens if they have parental consent and juvenile court approval. That effectively means there is no legal minimum age for marriage in Ohio.

The Daily News investigation found that between 2000 and 2015, 4,443 girls age 17 or younger were married, including 59 who were 15 or younger. In one case, a Gallia County judge allowed a 14-year-old pregnant girl to marry a 48-year-old man in 2002 -- 15 years later, they are still married.

House Bill 511, sponsored by state Rep. Laura Lanese, R-Grove City, and John Rogers, D-Mentor-on-the-Lake, passed Wednesday on a 78-0 vote.

Lanese noted that Ohio doesn't allow minors to buy alcohol or rent apartments, yet permits them to marry. Underage marriages are rife with the potential for abuse and often brides are coerced by their families to marry, she said.

Rogers said the bill moves Ohio "out of the stone age and into the 21st century."

Unchained at Last, a national group seeking to end child marriage worldwide, opposes any exceptions for marriage before age 18.

Story Filed By Cox Newspapers

For Use By Clients of the New York Times News Service