Literally Every State in America Allows Children Under 18 to Get Married

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File this under: Disturbing Fact We Didn't Previously Know to Be True. Literally every state in America allows children under the age of 18 to get married. Every. Single. One.


If you presumed the concept of child brides was relegated to cultural traditions or specific regions of the country, think again. Samantha Bee brought the issue to our attention with a segment on this week's Full Frontal, sharing mind-boggling facts and statistics on child marriage.

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Legislation varies from state to state but, for the most part, kids are able to marry at shockingly young ages. New Hampshire, for example, allows girls as young as 13 and boys aged 14 to marry with the consent of a judge. This startled 17-year-old Cassandra Levesque, who became aware of the law while at a Girl Scout conference. Determined to make a change, she worked to craft a piece of legislation that would move the legal age of marriage to 18 in her home state. It was voted down.

For its part, New York just raised the age of marital consent from 14 to 18, though 17-year-olds can still marry with both parental and judicial consent, according to CBS New York.

While lawmakers cite cultural traditions behind their reasoning for shooting down changes that would make child marriage illegal, there is far more to the story. In many cases, Bee reports, children are forced into marriage with adults as a way to get around statutory rape charges if the girl is pregnant.

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During the Full Frontal segment, Bee unleashed some staggering statistics about the consequences of underage marriages. Children who marry before the age of 18 are three times more likely to be beaten by their spouses and 31 percent more likely to live in poverty. The marriages are also 70 percent more likely to end in divorce. And, if you think this antiquated legislation is no big deal because these marriages are rare, here's a whopper: 167,000 children under the age of 17 were married between 2000 and 2010.

Organizations like Unchained at Last are working to protect at-risk children by fighting for legislation change, but they certainly have their work cut out for them. The majority of states have yet to take any action and only four have recently altered laws. Still, the nonprofit has pledged its resistance until all children are protected.

We like to think marriage is something that only happens between two consenting adults in this country. But as Samantha Bee's segment proves, we have a long way to go to make the reality of marriage fit the "happy ending" ideal we have in our heads.

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