Rhode Island Governor McKee signs law prohibiting child marriage

Governor Dan McKee today signed into law a ban on child marriage in Rhode Island by eliminating language in state law that allows individuals under the age of 18 to obtain a marriage license with parental consent.
“I am pleased that Rhode Island is joining several other states in this effort to protect children and prevent exploitation,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Thank you to Representative Casimiro and Senator Burke for their dedication to getting this legislation passed and putting an end to child marriage.”
“Child marriages destroy girls’ health, education and economic opportunities and increases their risk of violence. These young girls risk a 70 to 80 percent chance of divorce and they are more likely to end up in poverty than teen moms who remain single. These marriages can be used to cover up an unwanted pregnancy or cover for abuse. Sometimes abusive parents use these marriages for financial gain. Sometimes these marriages are used for sex trafficking purposes. The United Nations has made this a child welfare priority and with this bill’s passage, Rhode Island becomes the fifth state in the country to do so, making us a leader in our work protecting children,” said Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), bill sponsor.
“While child marriage is rare in Rhode Island, it does happen,” said Sen. John P. Burke (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick), bill sponsor. “Between 2013 and 2019, 32 minors — one as young as 14 — were married in Rhode Island, the vast majority of them being girls. And most often, child marriage is forced marriage, with minors being compelled to marry by their parents. It’s time for the state to put an end to this outrageous practice.”

Child marriage is still legal in 45 states. Only Rhode Island, Delaware, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania have set the minimum age at 18 and eliminated all exceptions.