West Virginia lawmakers are to be commended for overcoming the bizarre vote of the state Senate Judiciary Committee last week that rejected a child marriage ban. Though the 17-member Judiciary Committee may have believed they had stopped the measure, it was important enough to the rest of the members of the legislature that they found a way to revive it.
And so, on Saturday, the House of Delegates passed 83-9 — without debate — a measure that will ban marriages outright for anyone 15 or younger, require parental consent for those ages 16 or 17 who seek to marry, and require that even in those marriages the age gap must be no more than four years. The state Senate had easily endorsed the bill a day earlier.
Good for state Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, who is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, for resurrecting the bill on the Senate floor Thursday and making sure it advanced, despite the committee’s attempt to kill it.
Though some opponents of the bill claimed child marriage is a way to “protect families,” according to the Associated Press, the reality is such marriages are often forced upon one person — and that person is disproportionately the girl. According to the Pew Research Center, of the 57,800 Americans aged 15-17 who were married in 2014, 55% were female. But West Virginia had the highest rate of child marriages among the states in 2014, at 7.1 per 1,000 people aged 15-17. And, according to state health statistics, between 2015 and 2019, there were 259 girls under age 18 married in West Virginia … and just 52 boys under 18.
Read more here.
Number of Women and Girls At Risk: 25,000
Status: Existing Legislation Needs Strengthening
Improve by adding: Prosecuting parents/guardian, felony offense