Many people may think that children getting married does not happen in Minnesota.
But it does.
Current law allows 16- and 17-year-old children to marry “with the consent of the person's legal custodial parents, guardian, or the court.”
Rep. Kaohly Her (DFL-St. Paul), sponsor of HF745 that would prohibit minors from marrying in Minnesota, told members of the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division Tuesday that she has a personal connection to this issue.
Her testified that she had faced the prospect of an arranged marriage as a teenager. A much older man who had seen her only briefly at an event had called her father asking if he could marry her.
Her’s father declined, and insisted his daughter would not marry until she had graduated from college.
“Had my father not been my advocate, my life outcome would have been very different,” Her said.
She said graduating from high school and college would have surely been impossible and that her life would be very limited in several other important ways.
Approved by the division, the bill was sent to the House Floor. There is no Senate companion.
The bill would also prohibit the recognition of marriage between minors, if the minors were married in another state while residents of Minnesota.
Her and other testifiers cited statistics demonstrating that marriage involving minors has many debilitating effects, especially on girls marrying older men, which is the most common scenario.
Ashlynn Kendzior, a policy advocate for World Without Genocide, said girls who marry as children are 50 percent more likely to drop out of high school and three times more likely to be beaten by their husbands.
“Abuse is pervasive in these relationships,” Kendzior said.
And because legally married children lack many legal rights, they have little recourse to try to stop that abuse. Because individuals under age 18 cannot sign legal documents, “a married child cannot file for divorce or even seek an order for protection,” she said.
It’s unknown how many minors marry each year in Minnesota, Her said, because state courts do not keep such records. But she testified that 248,000 children were estimated to have been married in the United States between 2000 and 2010.