CHARLESTON – A child marriage bill is heading to the West Virginia governor’s desk after lawmakers agreed to let 16- and 17-year-olds get married with restrictions.
The House of Delegates passed the bill 83-9 without debate Saturday, a day after the Senate easily endorsed it after making changes to an earlier House version.
Currently, children can marry as young as 16 in West Virginia with parental consent, and anyone younger than that regardless of age can get married with a judge’s waiver.
The bill passed Saturday would remove the possibility that anyone younger than 16 could marry. Those ages 16 and 17 would have to obtain parental consent and they couldn’t marry someone more than four years older than them. Existing legal marriages would be unaffected.
Some Democrats, including the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Kayla Young of Kanawha County, had hoped to eliminate child marriage altogether, while some Republicans spoke about how they or their parents had married before adulthood and that such marriages protect families.
Young said the bill likely would have died without the Senate amendment. She said prior to the House’s vote that she was pleased that the bill prevents those younger than 16 from marrying and prohibits larger age gaps.
“This is a huge step to protecting our youngest children,” Young said on Twitter.
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