Map Shows 12 States That Allow Child Marriage After Virginia Passes Law

CollegeUnified By CollegeUnified 2 Min Read

Virginia has become one of the dozen states where child marriage has been banned, following Governor Glenn Youngkin’s signing of House Bill 994 into law. The legislation establishes the legal marrying age in Virginia to be 18 and eliminates the ability for a minor to be declared emancipated on the basis of the intent to marry. It closes a loophole that allowed 16- and 17-year-olds who have been emancipated from their families to wed, which had allowed them to be legally trafficked under the guise of marriage.

Unchained At Last, an organization dedicated to ending forced and child marriages in the U.S., estimates that 7,876 minors in Virginia were entered into marriage between 2000 and 2021. More than 80 percent of those marriages were between girls and adult men, and almost all of those marriages involved a minor who was not old enough to consent to sex with their spouse.

Delaware was the first state to set the minimum marrying age to 18 in 2018, and most states currently have the minimum marrying age set to 16, although a handful of states have raised it to 17, including Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, and Tennessee. There is no minimum marrying age in California, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

HB 994 will go into effect on July 1, and the legislation banning child marriage was one of 777 bills that Youngkin signed on Monday night. The governor also amended 116 bills and vetoed 153 bills.