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Will Vermont lawmakers ban child marriage in 2023? New bill passed in House, heads to Senate

Published Friday, Mar. 3rd, 2023


Update April 21th, 2023: This act passed and was signed into law by Gov. Scott on April 20th, 2023. It becomes effective on July 1st, 2023.



Will Vermont become the latest state to outlaw the marriage of minors? 


If House Bill 148, ‘An Act to Ban Child Marriage,’ is passed into law, yes: It would be illegal for someone under the age of 18 to marry, without exceptions. 


The bill was passed by the House yesterday (March 2, 2023), and now heads to the Senate for discussion. If signed into law, the relevant parts of the current statute would be amended to read: 



18 V.S.A. § 5142. Persons not authorized to marry 


The following persons are not authorized to marry, and a town clerk shall not knowingly issue a civil marriage license, when:


(1) either party is under 18 years of age;
(2) either party is mentally incapable of understanding the nature of the conduct at issue;
(3) either party is 18 years of age or older and under guardianship, without the written consent of the party’s guardian



See all Vermont Marriage Laws



Currently, children as young as 16 years old are allowed to marry in Vermont with the written consent of a parent or guardian. 


This measure is sponsored by Representatives Carol Ode of Burlington, Mollie Burke of Brattleboro, Tiffany Bluemle of Burlington, and Sara Coffey of Guilford, and reflects growing national concern over the prevalence and negative impacts of child marriage. 


In the past two years, three new states have banned the marriage of minors without exceptions, including New YorkRhode Island, and Massachusetts. And several have raised the legal age to marry to 18 with only a few exceptions, including (just this week) Wyoming.


In addition H.148 in Vermont, at least eight other states are considering similar legislation in 2023, including Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Washington, and West Virginia. The bills in these states would either limit or fully prohibit underage marriage.



How common is child marriage? One advocacy group estimates that nearly 300,000 children were legally married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2018, and that “Most were girls wed to adult men an average of four years older.” (via Unchained At Last) 


In Vermont, nearly 300 children were married over a 22 year period (from 2000 to 2022), at an average of almost 14 children a year. 84% of these child marriages involved underage girls, and nearly 50% of those were between girls and adult men more than four years older. Of the 47 child marriages involving underage boys, 16% were between boys and adult women more than four years older. (via the Vermont Commission on Women)


HB148 was introduced on February 1, 2023 and moved to the Senate on March 2, 2023. If passed, the new marriage age restrictions would become effective July 1, 2023.


See the full bill text here. 



Read more Vermont Marriage News




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A step-by-step guide on how to get married in Vermont, including how to find a wedding officiant, choose a wedding venue, and how to apply for a Vermont marriage license. Read the full article here.



Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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