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Proposed legislation would ban all child marriages in Delaware

Delaware Public Media

Legislation sponsored by State Rep. Kim Williams (D- Newport) would ban child marriages in the First State. It would make Delaware the only state to completely ban minors from marrying.

Many states set a minimum age for minors to marry. For example, data from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows New Hampshire allows girls as young as 13 years old to get married as long as they have the proper permission.

Current Delaware law bars minors from marrying unless they get permission from a Family Court judge. Parents, legal guardians and friends can petition the judge to allow a minor to marry.

Parents, legal guardians and friends can petition the judge to allow someonbe underage to marry, but Williams said that’s not good enough.

“It should be left up to the individual I mean to decide," she said. "Marriage is hopefully a lifelong commitment and we should leave it up to the adult to decide when when, where and if they’re going to be married.”

Williams also said because marriage is a legal contract, no minor should allowed to enter into one until age 18.

“Children who get married under the age of 18 have a tendency of being in more abusive relationships, dropout of high school and so minds are still developing and just feel that 18 years of age is a point where they can start making decisions for themselves,” she said.

The legislation would also allow annulments for some Delawareans who got married when they were a minor.

Williams says she also hopes her bill will help curb human trafficking. She says children are sometimes forced to marry adults who are much older.

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