Bill to increase Washington’s legal age of marriage to 18 stalls in Senate

Apr 19, 2023, 3:59 PM | Updated: 6:22 pm


Advocates and child marriage survivors march to State House to call for an end to child marriages in Boston, Massachusetts on September 2021. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

The Washington Legislature is attempting to firmly establish the minimum marriage age to be 18 within the state, but the bill, after passing unanimously in the House, has stalled again in the Senate.

“I didn’t hear any concerns or objections over it on the House side, and then it goes to the Senate and doesn’t even get a public hearing, which is the minimum that most bills get,” Rep. Skylar Rude (R-16th District) told Jason Rantz on KTTH 770 AM.

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Rude stated the current legislation on the legal age of marriage in Washington is more complicated, claiming a person can get married at 17 with consent from their parents, or any age below 17 with consent from a superior court judge.

“We’re talking like 14- or 15-year-olds can get married legally, in this state, with consent from a superior court judge,” Rude said.

“So, a 50-year-old could marry a 17-year-old with parental consent, and with a judge’s consent, that could also happen with a 14-year-old and a 50-year-old?” Rantz asked.

“Correct,” Rude responded.

Between the years of 2000-2018, Washington ranked 28th in the nation in marriages involving a minor per capita with 4,831, according to the nonprofit Unchained At Last. Nevada, Idaho, and Arkansas were the three highest states in child marriages per capita.

Overall, more than 200,000 minors were married in the U.S. over that period of data. While 96% of the marriages involving a minor were 16 or 17 years old, 98 marriages occurred with a minor under the age of 14.

78% of the marriages involving a minor were a girl under the age of 18 marrying a man over the age of 18, compared to less than 14% involving two minors.

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“I hear repeatedly from the majority side that young people’s brains aren’t developed until they’re in their early 20s,” Rude said. “Yet their side also allows them to have abortions. But we won’t allow them to use cannabis, tobacco, or alcohol, can’t even engage in contracts or buy a house, you can’t do all these things. And the reason is because a person at that age isn’t competent to make those decisions.”

In Washington, a minor can file for divorce, legal experts told The Seattle Times. Those between 15 and 17 years old can get a protective order on their own, while those younger than 15 need an adult to petition on their behalf, according to state law.

Seven other states (California, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Wyoming) have no official minimum age alongside Washington, while two states (Hawaii and Kansas) have a minimum age of 15.


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Bill to increase Washington’s legal age of marriage to 18 stalls in Senate