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Banning Child Marriage: Four States Consider Legislation to Raise Legal Age to Marry in 2024

Published Wednesday, Jan. 17th, 2024

Close up of man and girl holding hands with wedding rings
Photo: vredina_m / Adobe Stock

How young is too young to get married? Four more states reconsider their age requirements for marriage. 




Legislators in at least four states are considering bans or limits on child marriage this year, including California, Hawaii, Missouri, and Washington. 


In Hawaii, Missouri, and Washington, legislators want to raise the legal age of consent to marry to 18 years old, without exceptions. 


In California, proposed legislation would raise the marriage age to 18, but leave one exception that allows emancipated minors to marry. 


Read the full bill text here:



Related: Washington State is One Step Closer to Child Marriage Ban in 2024


If passed, these new laws would have a noticeable impact. Currently, children as young as 15 can marry in Hawaii with court or parental approval. In Missouri, children who are at least 16 can marry with parental permission if their intended spouse is no older than 21 years old. In Washington, 17 year olds can marry with a guardian’s approval; and in California, children of any age can get married with court approval – there’s no minimum age to marry if certain conditions are met.


This increase in marriage-age legislation reflects a question that legislators and advocates around the country are asking more frequently in the past few years: How young is too young to get married? 


In most states, marriage laws allow children to get married if a legal guardian or the court gives them permission to, and nearly 300,000 minors under the age of 18 were married in the US between 2000 and 2018. (via Unchained At Last)


But child advocates have raised awareness in recent years about the dangers that these marriages can pose to minors, including forced marriage, risk of violence and abuse, decreases in opportunity and well being, and more. Studies show that in most cases, these children marry adults (not other children), and that young girls are much more likely to be impacted than boys – nearly 78% of all child marriages in the U.S. involve a minor girl marrying an adult man. (via Unchained At Last)


Last year, laws banning the marriage of minors were passed in Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, and Vermont, bringing the total number of US states with child marriage bans to 10. In addition, age requirements were raised to 16 years old in West Virginia and Wyoming, along with other conditions to strengthen protections for minors there.


So, how young is too young to get married? Legally speaking, the answer to that question varies by state and is quickly changing around the country. 


To stay up to date on this and future marriage legislation in your state, visit the AMM News page often:


AMM News: Marriage Laws



To learn the legal age of consent to marry in your state, read: 




How would this impact AMM Ministers who officiate weddings? 


The proposed legislation in California, Hawaii, Missouri, and Washington discussed above would not impact ministers and officiants in these states. 


Marriage licenses are issued by officials and clerks, who will verify a couple's ages before issuing their documents. 


As always, however, it’s important for officiants to confirm a couple’s identity before performing their marriage ceremony and signing their marriage license. 




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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