FFRF Action Fund celebrates the Michigan Legislature’s passage of crucial legislation banning child marriage without exception. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign this into law.
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. The new legislation eliminating those exemptions requires that individuals must be 18 years of age to get married — no exceptions.
Michigan is now the 10th forward-thinking state to mandate the marriage age of consent to be 18. The other states setting an example are: Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
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 rape 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 often 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 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.
The FFRF Action Fund is part of a coalition to end child marriage across the United States.
“Our advocates helped to push the Michigan bills over the finish line,” comments FFRF Action Fund President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Changes like this don’t happen without broad public support, and we are proud to help give a voice to Americans who want to protect young children from becoming trapped in forced religious marriages.”
FFRF’s lobbying arm will continue to work with advocates and activists to end child marriage in the remaining 40 states that still, to their ignominy, allow it.
FFRF Action Fund is the lobbying arm of the Freedom From Religion Foundation,a national nonprofit with over 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.