Should children (those under the age of 18) get married? I think most Americans would say no. And most think child marriage is a problem in some foreign country. That is true, but it is also a problem in the United States. Believe it or not, until just a few days ago, child marriage was allowed in every state in the Union.
Last week, one state broke that abominable tradition. Delaware outlawed the marriage of anyone under the age of 18. Those marriages can't legally happen, even with the permission of parents or a judge. Delaware Representative Kim Williams said:
Children under 18 have no legal standing–they cannot file for divorce, utilize a domestic violence shelter, apply for a loan or open a credit card. They cannot enter any legal contract, but until this bill was signed they could be married as a child without any way of escaping an abusive marriage.
That makes a lot of sense. We consider those under 18 to be too young to purchase or use alcohol, too young to vote, too young to buy tobacco (or marijuana in states where it's legal), and too young to buy a firearm. Why then, would we think they are old enough to enter into a marriage? Marriage comes with many inherent problems -- problems it is difficult enough for adults.
Some might ask -- What about a pregnancy? That sounds to me like a failure of parents and schools, who should have provided the teens with adequate information about effective contraception. That aside, if abortion or adoption is not being considered, there is still no need to force or allow a child marriage. Both young people must assume responsibility for the financial well-being of the child, but no marriage is needed for that. And marriage could be a bad thing for children not ready for the responsibilities that come with it.
Others may ask -- What about "true love"? Bullshit! Most adults can't understand what constitutes "true love", and most teens confuse acceptance, intimacy, and sex as evidence of love. It isn't. And if it does happen to be "true love", it will still be that when both of the young people turn 18.
Delaware is not the only state that has attempted to outlaw child marriages. Tennessee and Kentucky tried, but their efforts were blocked by right-wing Republicans who said it violated their religious freedom as christians. These are the same people who claim to be guardians of "family values", but I fail to see how allowing or forcing children to marry has any value at all -- religious or otherwise.
There is no legitimate excuse for child marriage. A civilized country should know that.