More Than 4,400 Girls Younger Than 18 Have Been Married In Ohio Since 2000 And It’s A Problem

December 28, 2018  |  

Close-up of a teenage girl

Source: Rubberball/Mike Kemp / Getty

The Ohio Senate has unanimously passed a bill to increase the legal age of marriage in Ohio to 18, with a few exceptions, based on an investigation that found thousands of underage boys and girls and getting married in the state.

Fifteen months ago, the Dayton Daily News uncovered shocking statistics while reviewing 15 years of marriage records from the Ohio Department of Health:

  • Between 2000 and 2015, 4,443 girls age 17 or younger were married in Ohio, including 59 who were 15 or younger.
  • While its more common for girls under 18 to marry, 301 boys age 17 or younger were married between 2000 and 2015, including 25 to women who were 21 years of age or older.
  • Marriage licenses involving girls 17 and under were filed in 47 counties, which is more than half of the counties in Ohio.

According to Dayton Daily News’ Columbus Bureau reporter Laura Bischoff, kids as young as 14 are getting married. The paper reported, “Typically, the girl is pregnant or has already delivered the baby; Grooms, on average, were four years older than the brides.”

The new legislation, which has already been approved by the Ohio House in a 90-2 vote, includes an exception that will allow a 17-year-old to marry with consent from a juvenile court after waiting 14 days. It also prohibits 17-year-olds from marrying anyone more than four years older.

“Most people are shocked to learn that children as young as 14 are getting married in Ohio,” Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) told WKBN. “This often leads to emotional trauma, fewer educational opportunities and increased risk of abuse. We have a duty to enact this law and protect our children.”

As WRAL news reported, “Girls who marry young often struggle financially and most of the marriages don’t survive. A national study in 2012 found American women who marry before their 18th birthday trail those who delay marriage in educational attainment, mental and physical health and financial security; 80 percent of the marriages did not last, the study found.”

Overall, child marriage is on the decline, but there is still some opposition to bills such as this one. When State Representative Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) was asked by the Senate Judiciary Committee why not simply limit marriage to 18 and older without exception, she said, “Nationwide, these have been very difficult bills to pass.”

The bill will now go to Governor John Kasich for his signature.

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