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State of Rhode Island General Assembly
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Governor McKee signs legislation banning child marriages in RI into law
STATE HOUSE – Governor Dan McKee today signed into law legislation sponsored by Rep. Julie A. Casimiro and Sen. John P. Burke which bans child marriages in Rhode Island.
The bill (
2021 H 5387A
will ban child marriage in Rhode Island by eliminating language in state law that allows individuals under the age of 18 to obtain a marriage license with parental consent.
“Child marriages destroy girls’ health, education and economic opportunities and increases their risk of violence. These young girls risk a 70 to 80 percent chance of divorce and they are more likely to end up in poverty than teen moms who remain single. These marriages can be used to cover up an unwanted pregnancy or cover for abuse. Sometimes abusive parents use these marriages for financial gain. Sometimes these marriages are used for sex trafficking purposes. The United Nations has made this a child welfare priority and with this bill’s passage, Rhode Island becomes the fifth state in the country to do so, making us a leader in our work protecting children,” said Representative Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter).
“While child marriage is rare in Rhode Island, it does happen,” said Senator Burke (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick). “Between 2013 and 2019, 32 minors — one as young as 14 — were married in Rhode Island, the vast majority of them being girls. And most often, child marriage is forced marriage, with minors being compelled to marry by their parents. It’s time for the state to put an end to this outrageous practice.”
“I am pleased that Rhode Island is joining several other states in this effort to protect children and prevent exploitation,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Thank you to Representative Casimiro and Senator Burke for their dedication to getting this legislation passed and putting an end to child marriage.”
The legislation has garnered the support of Kids Count RI, The Office of the Child Advocate and UNICEF, which has long lobbied against child marriages across the planet.
Minors who are married lack the same legal protections that married adults have. For instance, those who are victims of domestic violence have little recourse, since battered women’s shelters will not accept minors without parental consent. They also cannot petition for divorce.
For more information, contact:
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
Lt. Governor's Office
Secretary of State
Link to Public Records Request