Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill this week that bans anyone under age 18 from getting married in the state.
Previously, 16- and 17-year-olds could marry if a parent provided consent. Also children under age 16 were allowed to marry if a parent and judge agreed. The new law establishes 18 as the minimum age for all marriages in Michigan.
The bill passed with strong bipartisan support, with the Senate voting in favor 31-6 and the House approving by a 99-8 margin.
“Keeping Michiganders safe and healthy is one of my top priorities, and today’s bipartisan bills will build on our efforts to protect young people — especially young women — from abuse,” said Whitmer. “As a county prosecutor, I went after those who used their power to prey on young people, and as governor, I am proud to sign legislation to strengthen protections for children and survivors into law. Together, we can make Michigan a safe, welcoming state where you can grow up and pursue your potential.”
House Bill 4294, which establishes the marriage minimum age, was among a series of bills passed by the legislature Whitmer signed pertaining to childhood marriage. Whitmer also signed a bill that continues spousal benefits for minors who are currently married.
"It’s time for us to ban the cruel practice of child marriage,” said state Rep. Alabas Farhat. "Abusive adults take advantage of minor children, setting them up for a life of torment. It is our duty to protect the children of Michigan, and I’m grateful this legislation is being signed into law."
UNICEF estimates that 300,000 people under age 18 were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2018.
"Closing the loopholes in state marriage laws is a crucial step toward protecting the right of all children to reach their full potential," UNICEF said. "The negative consequences associated with child marriage are a violation of child rights, especially those of girls. Eighty-six percent of child marriages in the U.S. involve a girl married to a significantly older man. Instead of permitting child brides in America, state governments should invest in systems that support vulnerable girls and their families."
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