Legislators say Minnesota should stop marriages under 18

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State lawmakers introduce a bill to ban marriage of minors.
A group of Minnesota lawmakers support a bill that would make 18 years old the minimum marriage age with no exceptions.
Nina Moini | MPR News

A group of DFL state legislators say they want to change Minnesota state law this year to keep anyone under 18 from marrying, even with parental consent.

Right now state law allows 16- and 17-year-olds to get married with parental consent and approval from a county judge.

State Rep. Kaohly Her, of St. Paul, is sponsoring a bill to change that.

She's hoping the Republican-controlled Senate will approve the bill this session because she said minors, mostly girls, are too afraid to fight for themselves in many cases when they are forced to marry much older men.

"I want to emphasize child marriage is not an international issue, it is not an issue that only impacts communities of color, it happens in the United States in new immigrant communities, and communities that have lived in this country for many generations,” Her said.

Sen. Warren Limmer, who chairs the judiciary committee, said he will grant the bill a hearing this year, after having some reservations last year. The Minnesota House passed the bill last session.

The Maple Grove Republican argues Minnesota still would have to recognize laws from other states that allow minors to marry.

"I said, well, that's not up for our state Legislature to decide, that's already decided by constitutional principle,” Limmer said. “The other question is are there couples who have a legitimate desire to get married and should the state stand in their way?"

Marriage before 18 is legal in 48 states.

Her said no one in Minnesota is tracking court records to determine how many minors are getting married.

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