LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Michigan politicians have passed an additional package of legislation designed to end the practice of child marriage in the state.
The laws provide updates and implementation guidelines to other bills that were passed this summer that banned marriage for people under 18 under all circumstances.
“There are many aspects of our society that we restrict to legal adults — voting, signing contracts and more. It’s well past time for marriage to join that list,” said state Representative Betsy Coffia, who sponsored one of the bills. “Not only is this action the right thing to do to protect children from predators, it’s just common sense.”
Supporters of these bills say that in past years, child marriage in Michigan was used as a legal cover for child predators and their enablers. Under previous laws, minors in Michigan could get married at 16 with parental permission, and someone under 16 could have gotten married with permission from the court.
“As a new father, I share in the worries of every parent, the foremost of which is making sure my daughter is safe and healthy,” said State Representative Joey Andrews. “Banning child marriage is an overdue step in that direction. Child marriage is the domain of sexual predators and their enablers, and I’m proud to be part of erasing it from Michigan statute.”
Between 2000 and 2021, more than 5,400 minors were married in Michigan, according to state data compiled by the nonprofit Unchained at Last. More than 9 in 10 of those minors were girls. Eleven were 15 years old at the time they married, and one was 14.
The most recently passed legislation clarifies 18 as the minimum age of consent for marriage, prevents marriage licenses from being sealed by the court in secret, and ensures that couples that were married before the law was passed will continue to receive their benefits.