end child marriage in michigan legislature

End child marriage, FFRF Action Fund urges Michigan Legislature


The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s lobbying arm is asking the Michigan Legislature to completely ban the abhorrent practice of child marriage.

FFRF Action Fund has provided written testimony to the Michigan House Judiciary Committee in support of HB 4293–4302, which would end child marriage in Michigan. It is strongly urging the committee to vote in favor of these bills, which will make 18 the minimum age for marriage in Michigan — with no exceptions. The committee is meeting today, May 10, to deliberate on the issue.

“Michigan law currently has no minimum age for marriage, and the reality is that minors, lacking adult rights, can be easily forced to marry and can become trapped in those marriages,” FFRF Action Fund Senior Policy Counsel Ryan Jayne states in the testimony. “In an ironic and unjust twist, minors may be forced to marry, but are not ‘old enough’ to file for divorce. This shows so clearly why a teenager who is not considered old enough to end a marriage should not be old enough to marry in the first place.” 

FFRF Action Fund cites a recent study revealing that almost 300,000 minors were married in this country between 2000–2018. Not surprisingly, 86 percent of the children married during this time period were girls, most marrying adult men with an average spousal age difference of four years. While the federal criminal code prohibits sex with a child age 12 to 15, it specifically exempts those who first marry the child. Michigan should not allow its children to fall victim to this disgusting loophole for child rape, FFRF Action Fund insists. Most child marriage licenses are essentially “get out of jail free” cards, because otherwise sexual contact would be considered statutory rape.

These are scenarios straight out of the Bronze Age Old Testament, whose Mosaic law essentially forces rape victims to marry their rapists, FFRF points out. The bible treats girls and women as chattel and property. Girls go from being the property of fathers to the property of husbands, who, to quote Genesis, “shall rule over” them. As a consequence of such thinking, in the United States even now minors who flee an abusive spouse or impending forced marriage are typically considered runaways under state law, can be returned to their homes against their will or in some states, even charged with running away. 

Such social aberrations cannot be allowed to continue. Earlier this year, Vermont became only the eighth state to ban child marriage; the FFRF Action Fund strongly encourages Michigan to become the ninth.  

FFRF Action Fund is an affiliate of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national nonprofit organization with over 40,000 members across the country, including more than 1,000 members in Michigan. We work to ensure that our laws remain secular in order to protect the constitutional separation between state and church.