When 17-year-old Cassandra Levesque approached the New Hampshire State House on March 9, she didn’t come to make peace with the law. She came with a binder three inches thick with research. Her objective: End child marriage in New Hampshire. Ultimately, she lost the battle, and child marriage is still legal in NH via the loopholes her bill tried to close up. What happened next would prove Cassandra’s role was bigger than NH. Although her bill was defeated, she sparked a national conversation. People everywhere saw a teenager standing up for anyone ever forced into a marriage when they were too young. They saw her pop the question, “Will New Hampshire end child marriage and set a new bar for America?” Then they saw lawmakers respond, “No.” Heads shook everywhere, and Cassandra became a symbol for the struggle to end child marriage in America.
In New Hampshire, even though the legal age to marry is 18, loopholes in the law allow girls to get married with parental and judicial consent as young as 13 and boys, 14. Cassandra first learned about these loopholes through a presentation on human trafficking conducted by UNICEF, a global organization and United Nations program that is dedicated to the healthy development of children and mothers. That was all it took to put her back in touch with her state representative Jacalyn Cilley (D-NH), whom she first met as a Brownie in the second grade when Cilley gave Cassandra her first tour of the State House. Cassandra reached out to Cilley, and her representative took up her cause. Together they got to work on drafting Cassandra’s bill to end child marriage in NH.