Raise the minimum age of marriage in North Carolina to 18, no exceptions
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I love North Carolina. We have the smoky mountains, beautiful beaches, and the best barbeque you've ever tasted. These are the things we should be known for, not as one of the states with the highest rates of child marriage.
Nearly 8,800 minors were listed on marriage license applications between 2000 and 2015 in North Carolina, making our state fourth in highest number of child marriages in the United States (International Center for Research on Women). And these cases don't usually involve two minors getting married - 93% of the applications involved an adult.
How is this allowed in our state? Good question. As an NC resident, I was surprised to learn that North Carolina is tied with Alaska for lowest legal age of marriage. A person can get married in NC at the age of 14 by court order if they or their partner is pregnant. A 16 or 17-year-old can marry by means of parental consent; this means that the only thing separating many children from marriage is their parent's signature, opening the door for countless forced marriages to occur.
Marriage under the age of 18 puts minors at risk of abuse. An emancipated minor is no longer under the legal authority of their parents, but simultaneously not old enough to hire a divorce lawyer or get legal help to escape abusive situations. This leaves married minors in a dangerous legal gap where they have no authority to dissolve their marriage until they reach the age of 18.
Meanwhile, their risk of poverty and disease increases. According to the ICRW, girls who marry before age 19 are 50% more likely to drop out of high school and four times less likely to complete college. They also are 23 percent more likely to develop diabetes or cancer or have a heart attack or a stroke.
Tell our Congress to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18, no exceptions. Let's protect North Carolina minors.
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