FFRF Action Fund applauds the Michigan legislature for passing crucial legislation banning child marriage without exception. This is a significant step toward protecting young girls from being forced into marriage.
Currently, Michigan law allows children as young as 16 to be married with parental consent. Shockingly, marriages with a judge’s consent have no minimum age. These bills eliminate those exemptions. Under these bills, which will now head to the governor’s desk, where they are expected to be signed into law, individuals must be 18 years of age to get married — no exceptions.
Unbeknown to most people, or often overlooked, most states throughout the country allow child marriages. Appallingly, 11 states do not even specify any minimum age for marriage with parental consent. Often, such marriages are nothing more than a way to avoid prosecution for what would otherwise be criminal child or statutory rape. Minors, lacking adult rights, can be easily coerced or even forced to marry and can become trapped in those marriages. In an ironically unjust twist, minors may be forced to marry, but are not “old enough” to file for divorce. Exceptions for child marriage have often been enacted at the behest of religions.
Stories of forced child marriages echo ancient practices found in the Old Testament and highlight the problematic treatment of girls and women as property, subjected to the whims of their fathers and later their husbands. Regrettably, even in the present-day United States, minors who escape from abusive spouses or face the prospect of forced marriages often find themselves labeled as runaways under certain state laws. As such, they can be forced to return to their homes against their will, and in certain states, they may even face charges for running away.
If Michigan passes this legislation into law, it will join nine other forward-thinking states that now mandate the marriage age of consent to be 18. The states setting the example are: Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
“This is an enormous milestone to the end goal of eliminating child marriage in Michigan and across the country,” says FFRF Action Fund President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We fully expect the governor to do the right thing and sign this legislation into law to abolish this archaic practice.”
FFRF Action Fund will continue to work with with advocates and activists to end child marriage in the remaining 40 states that allow it.
FFRF Action Fund is the lobbying arm of the Freedom From Religion Foundation,a national nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members across the country, including more than 1,000 members in Michigan. The Action Fund’s purposes are to help pass legislation to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.