The United States is an interesting place full of interesting laws — controversial, contradictory, and sometimes nonsensical laws with more political purposes than moral or meaningful ones. Take the age of consent, for example: according to federal law, a person cannot legally engage in sexual intercourse with someone 16 or younger if the other person is at least four years older. State laws most often use 16 as the age of consent, while others impose laws at 17 or 18.
To the rational mind, this might mean that a person legally incapable of having sex should also be barred from marriage. But that isn’t always the case.
Sometimes the reverse is true. In Nebraska, two people who wish to be married must reach age 19 first. In Mississippi, they must reach the age of 21. In both states the age of consent is lower than the age at which someone can legally marry without parental consent. In all other states two people must be 18 years old. This might seem to make sense based on age of consent laws, but like we implied — there are loopholes.
Namely, parental or judicial consent. The minimum age of marriage in states where partners can marry below the age of consent ranges from 14 to 18. Shockingly, children under sixteen can marry in 23 states. Before Tennessee drafted a new law to prevent it in 2018, there were girls as young as ten married using this loophole.
One might say: all right, it’s one thing to have a law, but it’s another thing completely to put it into practice. How many minors actually get married because of these loopholes? The answer might astonish you: over 200,000 minors have married in states where it is legal in only the last fifteen years.
What are some obvious standouts where minors can marry younger than a typical age of consent? In some states parental consent isn’t enough; judicial consent is necessary.
- Alaskan kids can marry with parental consent at 14.
- California has no age restriction with parental consent.
- Hawaiians can marry at 15.
- Idaho has no age restriction.
- Indiana kids can marry at 15.
- Kansas kids can marry at 15.
- Maine has no age restriction with parental consent.
- Massachusetts has no age restriction with parental consent.
- Michigan has no age restriction with parental consent.
- New Mexico has no age restriction.
- North Carolina kids can marry at 14.
- Oklahoma has no age restriction.
- Pennsylvania has no age restriction.
- Washington has no age restriction.
- West Virginia has no age restriction.
- Wyoming has no age restriction.