Monday, July 04, 2016

13-Year-Olds Can No Longer Marry in Virginia

The backwardness of Virginia at times is mind-numbing.  Want an example?  It just became illegal as of July 1, 2016, for 13 year-olds to marry in Virginia.  That's right female middle school students heretofore could marry provided they had parental consent and they were pregnant.  One of the opponents of the change in the law was anti-gay nutcase GOP Del. David LaRock.  The Washington Post looks at this much delayed change.  Here are excerpts:
Only adults can get married in Virginia, according to a new law replacing policies that made it possible for a girl 13 or younger to marry if she had parental consent and was pregnant.
The law, which took effect Friday, sets the minimum marriage age at 18, or 16 if a child is emancipated by court order. It takes parents and pregnancy out of the equation.
The change is aimed at curbing forced marriage, human trafficking and statutory rape disguised as marriage. Activists say the previous law created a “fast-track to child marriages” for abusers who could evade investigation by child-welfare officials by simply marrying their victims.
Nearly 4,500 children under age 18 were married in Virginia from 2004 to 2013, according to data from the state’s Department of Health. That includes more than 200 children age 15 or younger.
About 90 percent of the underage spouses were girls; in many cases, the girls married men age 21 or older, and sometimes the men were decades older, data show.
The statistics prompted the Falls Church-based Tahirih Justice Center, which works to end forced marriage in the United States, to set about getting the laws changed through a rare bipartisan effort.
Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Fauquier) and Del. Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond) sponsored identical bills that passed during this year’s legislative session, despite some opposition.
When children get married, Smoot said, they are 50 percent less likely to finish high school, four times less likely to go to college and more likely to have children sooner and more closely spaced than people who marry as adults.  Underage brides are also more likely to experience mental and physical problems, Smoot said, and have a divorce rate of as high as 80 percent.
“Sex with a child is illegal,” McClellan said, “but the way the marriage laws worked, if you were under 16 and pregnant, rather than punishing your assailant, you were allowed to marry them.”
Del. David A. LaRock (R-Loudoun) said he worried that pregnant teens could be more likely to have abortions if they must have court permission to marry.  “Ultimately, I was not convinced this was an effective way to fix the problems it was targeting like forced marriage and sex trafficking,” he said.

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