Legislature passes bill banning child marriage in Ohio

(WCMH) — In the waning hours of the 132nd general assembly, the legislature sent a bill to the governor’s desk that would ban underage marriage in most cases.

In Ohio, current law allows boys to marry at 18 and girls to wed at 16. But with permission from their parents and a judge, children can marry at any age. If signed, a new law would eliminate underage marriages almost entirely.

If you don’t think the very young are marrying full grown adults in Ohio, you’d be wrong.

According to State Representative Laura Lanese the sponsor of the new law, from 2000 to 2015, 4,500 underage girls and around 300 boys were part of such a marriage.

Lanese cited the marriage of a 14-year-old girl to a 48-year-old man as a reason lawmakers pursued the legislation.

“That was approved by a judge and by the parents in Ohio and that’s sort of the impetus to try and prevent this because we know it’s happening,” said Lanese.

The proposed law requires you to be 18 to get married in Ohio, regardless of gender, with one exception; 17-year-olds can marry with a judge’s consent but only to someone no more than 4 years older.

Over in the Senate, Minority Leader Kenny Yuko put forward a similar bill. He released this statement, praising the passage of House version.

“It’s incredibly important that we finally updated this outdated law which doesn’t align with 21st-century values,” said Yuko. “And the passage of this legislation is a step in the right direction.”

Yuko and Lanese are in agreement and say young people who get married as minors face some of the longest, most harmful effects as a result.

“Kids who get married typically have the highest dropout rates from school, they have incredibly high depression rates, and just troubles all along the lines,” said Lanese.

Lanese says there have been cases in other states where children were sold into these underage marriages, and she says if it has happened in other states it has probably happened here too.

The bill awaits the governor’s signature.