Michigan Senate votes to outlaw child marriage

The Michigan legislature has voted to outlaw child marriage after the senate voted to raise the age that someone can enter a union with someone else.

Under legislation approved by the state Senate on Thursday the age someone can be married was increased from 16 to 18. The eight-bill package prohibits judges from marrying minors or parents authorizing the marriage of an underage child.

The bills passed unanimously.

"Most people would be surprised to learn that there is no minimum age for marriage in Michigan," said Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly. "Our law dates back to the 1880s. Parents and judges continue to marry minors who are not even legally old enough to engage in consensual sex, often with much older partners.

"Sometimes there are other motives like financial constraints faced by parents that lead to their consent. We heard testimony from a number of women, who I would absolutely characterize as victims of child marriage. It is just so devastating to see this happening in 2023 in America, right here in our own state."

The Michigan House voted on its own version of the legislation that it approved 104-5 on Wednesday .

A release sent by Johnson, 5,400 minors were married in the state over the past two decades, according to data from the nonprofit Unchained at Last. Over 90% of them were girls. 

"A 16-year-old can’t legally sign a contract or hire a lawyer — that makes it exponentially harder for them to get out of a child marriage once it has taken place. Modernizing our marriage laws will help to protect our young people until they are legally able to make these types of life-changing decisions for themselves."