CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill Wednesday that would prohibit minors from getting married.
The Republican-dominated House passed the bill 84-13, sending it to the state Senate. The regular session ends March 11.
Currently, children can marry as young as 16 in West Virginia with parental consent. Anyone younger than that also must get a judge’s waiver.
The bill would establish that 18 is the age of consent. It removes the ability of a minor to obtain consent through their parents, legal guardians, or by court petition. Existing legal marriages, including those done in other states, are unaffected.
According to the nonprofit group Unchained At Last, which seeks to end forced and child marriage, seven states have set the minimum age for marriage at 18, all since 2018.
From 2015 to 2019, there were marriages involving 259 girls and 52 boys under age 18 in West Virginia. A few of them had been married more than once, according to state health statistics.
Number of Women and Girls At Risk: 25,000
Status: Existing Legislation Needs Strengthening
Improve by adding: Prosecuting parents/guardian, felony offense