SAINT PAUL, Minn. — On Tuesday, Governor Walz signed a bill to end child marriages in Minnesota. The bill, authored by Rep. Kaohly Her (DFL – St. Paul) and Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL – St. Paul), raises the legal marriage age to 18.
“This is an important step to stop the exploitation of vulnerable Minnesotans,” said Rep. Her. “700,000 people around the world were married as children, some of them here in Minnesota. For many, their marriages meant a lost childhood and years of abuse, poverty, and illness. I am proud that we have put an end to this practice in Minnesota.”
The bill prohibits marriage by those under 18 in all circumstances and requires Minnesotans to provide proof of age during the marriage application process. Current law allows 16- and 17-year-olds to obtain marriage licenses with permission from a parent, legal guardian, or judge. The legislation will take effect on August 1, 2020.
“I am pleased we were able to finally pass this important legislation to make it illegal for children to marry before 18,” Sen. Pappas said. “This legislation will protect children from being coerced into marriage they cannot easily escape. Marriage at this young age has devastating lifelong repercussions such as higher poverty rates, reduced economic opportunities, and increased mental health issues.
Minnesota doesn’t collect data on child marriages, but an estimated 250,000 minors were married in the United States between 2000 and 2010. More than 85 percent of them were girls.
Children who get married are significantly more likely to experience abuse, poverty, adverse physical and mental health outcomes, underage pregnancy, death resulting from childbirth, and to drop out of school.
The Minnesota House and Senate passed the legislation unanimously.