RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The state House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that would end child marriages in North Carolina.
Dr. Kristin Baker (R-Cabarrus) and Rep. Ashton Wheeler Clemmons (D-Guilford) sponsored Senate Bill 35. It passed 114-0.
The bill, which now heads to the North Carolina Senate, changes the lawful age to marry to 16 years old. It would also mandate a maximum of four-year age difference for 16- or 17-year-olds getting married.
The bill now requires an underage person marrying to obtain consent from a parent or guardian.
It also outlined reasons why a marriage could be voided.
“Research indicates that people who marry as minors face increased dropout rates from both high school and college, increased medical and mental health problems, and markedly increased likelihood of future poverty,” Baker said in a statement. “This bill raises the age of marriage to 16. It also sets limits on age gaps for marriage of minors ages 16 and 17, thus serving as a deterrent for those who would target North Carolina as a destination state for human trafficking.
She continued, “As a conservative Christian, I am a strong supporter of the sacrament of marriage. As a child psychiatrist, I am determined to protect our vulnerable youth, enhancing their chances for healthy, happy futures. I believe this bill works to achieve those ends. “
Clemmons added: “I am extremely proud to see this critical bill moving forward in the NC House. “It is past time that we protect young people – especially young girls – from the well-documented negative impacts of child marriage. I am grateful for the determination of advocates and the bi-partisan, bi-cameral legislative leadership to make this progress to protect our children.”