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Politics & Government

Bill To Limit Child Marriage Falls In Idaho House

James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

Idaho House lawmakers brushed off an attempt to allow only someone older than 16 years old to get married.

Legislators slapped down the minimum marriage age bill 28-39 Thursday. It would’ve required a court order and parental permission for a person to marry someone if they’re 16 or 17 years old.

Right now, someone only needs parental permission in Idaho if they’re over 16. Those who are younger need a judge to sign off on the marriage, as well as parental consent.

Rep. Christy Zito (R-Hammett) says these regulations would be more restrictive than a girl seeking an abortion.

“It will then become easier in the state of Idaho to obtain an abortion at 15-and-a-half years old than it will to decide to form a family,” she says.

An underage girl can receive an abortion just with parental permission in Idaho.

Others said children should be able to get married to each other if they want to without going before a judge.

Boise Democrat Colin Nash was acting as a substitute for Rep. John McCrostie. Nash says Idaho needs to shake its reputation as being the state with the highest rate of child marriage.

“When it’s legal for a 30 year old to marry a 15 year old, that is not marriage because they are not equal partners. That is institutionalized child abuse. That is arranged statutory rape. That is the state of Idaho offering legal protection for unhealthy relationships,” Nash says.

Pushing back against that line of debate, Rep. Julianne Young (R-Idaho Falls) says marriage and abuse are two different things.

“It’s concerning to me that we’re equating marriage with rape and coercion and abuse,” Young says. “I think we need to keep clear which topic we’re talking about and if we can’t distinguish between our rape statue and a marriage, we might want to look again at the language in our rape statute.”

From 2000 to 2010, nearly 4,100 kids were wed in Idaho, according to the anti-child marriage organization Unchained At Last.

Over the past year, Delaware and New Jersey have become the first two states to completely outlaw marriage below the age of 18.

The U.S. State Department calls child marriage a “human rights abuse” that deprives a girl of the chance to “reach her full potential.”

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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